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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Sparring in South Korea: Alycia Chee ‘26 Travels For Taekwondo Competition

Alycia Chee ’26 (right) poses for a picture with her taekwondo group. In August, Chee attended the Korea Open taekwondo competition in South Korea. “It’s a larger scale competition, [and] there were Olympians there,” Chee said. “There were really good national teams, it was just a really cool experience, something you can’t find in the US.” Photo courtesy of Alycia Chee

On August 8, Alycia Chee’ 26 traveled to Chuncheon-si, South Korea to attend the esteemed Korea Open Taekwondo tournament. Chee has been learning and competing in Taekwondo for the past nine years and has worked her way up to compete at an international level.

“There are like seven or eight black belts, and basically I’m on the third level of black belts,” Chee said.

Chee previously attended several competitions throughout the US but this was her first time attending a competition in another country. Korea Open was a very different experience from Chee’s other tournaments due to how competitive the teams in Asia are.

“Before COVID, I was planning to go to Pan-Ams in South America. We were supposed to go to Peru, then COVID hit so I never got a chance to go,” Chee said. “[I have attended] US Open before which is also an international competition, and Korea Open is on a whole other level because taekwondo is a really big thing in Asia and they’ve got elite national teams and are all really well trained and intimidating compared to teams in the US.”

Outside of the competition itself, it was also Chee’s first time in Korea. Chee faced a language barrier but managed to get past it with the help of her Korean coach. She also tried new foods and visited popular destinations.

“There were a lot of language barriers, but my coach was Korean which helped a lot,” Chee said. “We had kimbap, which is like rice rolls, we went to a Korean barbecue place, and we went to a hot pot place. We also visited this sky tram kind of thing where they take you across like a body of water, and they take you all the way up and there’s this big complex and there’s like ice cream and stuff and the view was really nice.”

Before competing in Korea Open, Chee had to prepare vigorously to meet the standards of the tournament. This included having to train and diet to stay within a specific weight range.

“Before the competition, you have to do weigh-ins where you sign up to say that you’re a certain weight. If you don’t make that weight, you can’t compete,” Chee said. “We did a lot of what we would call weight cutting, so it was just like trying to sweat off the excess weight.”

After warming up and completing weigh-ins, it was time for Chee to compete. However, as she was led towards the place she was going to fight, she realized that she was missing her mouth guard.

“I realized when I stepped into the ring, I didn’t have my mouth guard, and that I dropped it somewhere and then I told the referee and she was like, ‘You need to go get that right now,’” Chee said. “I think she gave me one minute or something, and if you didn’t make the time limit you’d be disqualified, so my coach sprinted to get my mouth guard. It was embarrassing, but [a] very vivid memory.”

Chee retrieved her mouth guard just in time and competed in the sparring section of the competition, which involved sparring with another person, as opposed to the poomsae section in which a competitor would present forms for the judges.

“So basically, we have electronic gear, we have a chest guard and helmet, and [we have] flip gear,” Chee said. “It’s like three rounds. If you hit somebody with [the electronic gear], you get points. So it’s like whoever gets the most points wins that round and it’s the best out of three rounds.”

Despite Chee’s best attempts she did not make it past the first round of the tournament after fighting a tough opponent. Chee still took away valuable lessons from the match.

“I fought this girl from Thailand and she was really, really good. but I did learn a lot from this competition. It was very inspiring and motivating to see that I’m actually not that good on global terms. There [were] a lot of amazing athletes out there, and it [motivated me to] work harder to place better at the next international competition.”

After the competition in Korea, Chee had a conversation with her teammates about their goals for the upcoming season.

“One of my personal goals is to make it past the first round at an international competition, so I’m aiming for US Open, which will be in February, or sometime around then,” Chee said.

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About the Contributors
Hannah McDonough
Hannah McDonough, Horizon Assistant Editor
Class of 2024 I am so excited to continue working on the Horizon this year! Aside from writing and reporting, some of my favorite things to do include reading, listening to music, and watching Gilmore Girls.
Sabareesh Dinakaran
Class of 2025 I love writing and playing music, drawing and Pokemon. I am also a member of Garageband and Color Guard.

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