“I am still in shock!” said Ava Lee, in the wake of winning a very close gold in the W-59kg category at the Tashkent 2019 World Taekwondo Cadet Championships. “It’s just crazy I get the opportunity to fight against the best of the best in the world - it feels amazing!”
It is the biggest win of her taekwondo career so far – a career that started when she took up the sport at the tender age of two and a half.
“My grandpa came to America teaching taekwondo so that’s why I started,” she said. Taekwondo remains a family affair: Lee cites her father as her biggest inspiration in the sport.
It was no easy route to the tile of cadet world champion: Lee won the honor after a close battle against Iran’s Setayesh Ghahremani Mahid.
Needless to say, the Lee family was delighted. “They are extremely proud of me,” she said.
Lee has a wider taekwondo circle beyond her immediate family: In the adult game, she likes McPherson of Team USA and Skylar Park of Canada.
Reaching the elite stage of those two idols is a way off, but Lee has the necessary appetite for hard work - as witness her preparation for Tashkent, which must surely have been heavy going for a schoolgirl.
“My training for this tournament was about an hour and a half in the morning doing weight training and conditioning,” she recalled. “At night it was 2 hours on strategies and some conditioning…. I spent about 12.5 hours a week training.”
Despite the athletic endurance the sport demands, Lee enjoys it all – and not just the fighting. “My favorite thing about taekwondo is probably getting to travel and meet people from around the world,” she said.
She remains medal-hungry: “My next tournament will be the Presidents Cup in November,” she said. “Then I’d like to go to the Junior World Championships in 2021.”
And beyond that?
“My dream is to win the Olympics in 2028,” she said.
Spoken like a champ.