Sparring her way to the top

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12-year-old Owen County girl brings home Taekwondo gold

By Molly Haines

Just call her the champ.
At 10 years old, Kendall Yount brought home her first gold medal after winning first place for girls between 8 and 10 in sparring at the American Taekwondo Association’s World Championships in Little Rock, Ark.
Now 12 years old, Yount has done it again, except this time she reached the feat by competing against a diverse group, including girls from Peru and New Mexico.
Yount competed for the gold medal in sparring Feb. 21 at the U.S.A. Taekwondo Open in Austin, Texas.
Sparring is where two people put on pads, go in a ring and fight. There is no punching in the face and no kicking below the belt.
The Texas competition was put on by the USAT, which Kendall’s mom, Starla Yount, said differs from the American Taekwondo Association.
“The USAT opens the door for all competitors,” Starla said. “It’s a stepping-stone to the Junior Olympics. It was very nerve-racking for her. It was her first competition in the Olympic-style sparring. There were three others from her school that went, but none of them placed. By the time Kendall’s event rolled around, she was very nervous. We weren’t really expecting her to place, this being her first time. We were very excited it happened the way it did. It’s a big achievement for her.”
According to Starla, the ATA does not recognize the Olympic-style sparring, which led Kendall to join the Kentucky Taekwondo and Fitness school in Crestwood.
As of Friday, Kendall was ranked second in “sparring” and “form” and fourth in “weapons” in the ATA’s world standings for girls between the ages of 11 and 13 with a second- or third-degree black belt.
The ATA’s season ends in April and the top 10 competitors will compete for the world championship in June.
Starla is hoping for a repeat of 2008 in June.
“She won first place in sparring in 2008,” Starla said. “In 2009, she won a silver medal and in 2010, she won a bronze. She is expected to compete again in this year’s national championship.”
Starla said her young daughter had already benefited in many ways from her seven years of Taekwondo.
“Taekwondo is all about values and respect,” Starla said. “She’s a straight-A student and very composed. She has competed in several speech competitions and can really converse at an adult level. This isn’t just something I see in Kendall, but in a lot of Taekwondo students. She has friends from across the Untied States. The traveling part has been the experience of a lifetime and we expect her to eventually compete outside of the U.S. We’re very proud of her and excited to be able to do this with her.”
Kendall is also expected to compete in July at the San Jose, Calif., USAT Junior Olympics.