Rancho Santa Fe student wins gold at Pan Am Open International Taekwondo Championship


Nicholas A. Carlo, a fifth grader at R. Roger Rowe School in Rancho Santa Fe, recently won the first place gold medal in kyorugi (full contact sparring) at the Pan Am Open International Taekwondo Championships. Nicholas competed in the 10- and 11-year-old heavy weight black belt division.

The competition was held in the Portland Oregon Convention Center from Dec. 12-14. More than 1,500 athletes from 30 different countries assembled to determine who would earn the title of “best of the best.”

Competitors scored points by punching to their opponents’ chest or kicking to their opponents’ chest or head. At high level competition, such as the Pan Am Open, an electronic system is used for scoring. Each competitor wears a vest (called hogu) embedded with sensors and footwear embedded with magnets. As the foot approaches the vest, the sensors anticipate the approaching magnet and register the impact and force the blow. The hogu scores only kicks to the torso. Four corner judges use hand-held controllers, which are part of a wireless system, to score other blows. The system takes away any politics in scoring, especially in world competitions.

Nicholas is 11 years old and has been training since he was 5. He has been actively competing for more than five years and also recently won the 22nd California Open International Taekwondo (TKD) Championship held outside Los Angeles on Oct. 18. He is partly sponsored by the NRG Matrix Warrior Fund and Mooto Taekwondo. The NRG Matrix Warrior Fund is a nonprofit that aids up-and-coming junior and senior athletes who have aspirations in making the Olympic Team.

Nicholas trains under Master Hyon Lee at the Taekwondo Institute in Poway. Master Lee was a former elite competitor and member of the U.S. TKO Team. In 1993 he won the World Championship held in Madison Square Garden in New York City. He currently trains some of the top U.S. senior TKD athletes.