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One day, an Olympic gold medal may hang around an Owen County girl’s neck because she hated ballet.
A decade after trading in pirouettes for the high leg kicks of Taekwondo, 14-year-old Kendall Yount has world championships, countless trophies and awards under her black belt.
As she competes and trains with Olympians, Yount has earned high praise from her older peers with one even commenting “this is the next world champion” when she competed. She earned a bronze medal in the senior lightweight division and a gold medal in the junior middleweight division at the Taekwondo U.S. Open. She is also a member of the junior Olympic team.
But her road to the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro started because ballet didn’t offer the level of competition or individual honors that Yount sought.
“I hated it,” Kendall said. “I didn’t like it all but I have always been very active and we were looking for something for me to do.”
Her father Lee has been into martial arts and the family thought it was something 4-year-old Kendall would find interesting.
“We saw an ad on the side of a van in Lexington for martial arts. We called and found out they had a studio in Frankfort and things kinda took off from there,” Starla Yount said.
Since that moment, Kendall has shown an amazing level of dedication to taekwondo and her sport. On average, she practices four hours a day, six days a week.
“It has become such a part of my life,” Kendall said.
Kendall acknowledges that she doesn’t live the same kind of life as many her classmates at Frankfort Christian Academy may enjoy.
“All the other girls may be out getting their nails done and I will be in the gym training as hard as I can,” Kendall said.
Getting a manicure isn’t at the top of her list of things to do with the rigors of her intense training.
“I get a lot of bumps and bruises,” Kendall said. “I’ve broken toes and fingers. (Competition) is a controlled environment but it can take a toll on you.”
While she trains without other students and competes as an individual, Kendall said she couldn’t perform at the level she does or chase her dreams without the support of her friends and family.
“I couldn’t ask for more from my family,” Kendall said. “They have been behind me and supported me from the beginning and I know they always will.”
Kendall also finds unconditional support from her friends, especially her best friend Eden.
“I can’t always do what they want to do because of my schedule and training, but they understand and they are great about it,” Kendall said. “I don’t think anyone could do something like this without having good friends who are super supportive. That kind of thing keeps you going.”
She recently attended a three-day training camp in Orlando, Fla. where her scheduled jumped to 11 hours a day that included classes, workshops and seminars.
In Orlando, she trained with “the best of the best” as she looks to her goal of Olympic glory.
Kendall said her perseverance may be genetic and handed down from her father Lee.
“Dad is a very driven person,” Kendall said. “He has never been one to sit down and just watch TV. I get a lot of inspiration from him and my mom as well.”
For the future, Kendall is setting her sites typically high with hopes of attending Stanford with a possible career in pediatric cardiology.