Fronda, 16, a black belt at Wais Martial Arts Academy in Tracy, went into the USA Taekwondo Northern California State Championships on April 20 and 21 in San Mateo, knowing he could win the gold medal in the junior sparring division.
He said his desire to advance in the sport — with the 2016 Olympics in sight — kept him motivated as he won three matches in a row to collect the gold medal.
“It’s always been my dream since I was little,” he said. “Once I found out taekwondo is an Olympic sport, I’ve wanted to do this.”
He and three of his teammates, brothers Gion Hakimi, 17, Leon Hakimi, 15, and Sonann Hakimi, 11, are among the black belts competing for a chance to fight on the USAT national team and contend for a shot at the USAT Olympic team.
Their strong finishes at the Northern California tournament qualified them for the world-class sparring division at the USAT 2013 National Championships, July 3 to 8 in Chicago.
Fronda is getting his second shot at national competition, having competed as an 8-year-old orange belt in 2004.
“Knowing that I did it before gave me confidence that I could do it again,” Fronda said.
Leon Hakimi won bronze in the junior division at San Mateo. He said that after 10 years in taekwondo and three years as a black belt, the state tournament was the latest in increasingly tough challenges.
“It was very intense, a lot harder than local tournaments,” he said.
Gion Hakimi, who won silver in sparring at San Mateo, said daily two-hour workouts with his brothers and father, Wais Hakimi, the head instructor at the academy, will prepare the four black belts for the next level.
“The athletes I train with push me to become a better person, progress in the sport and hopefully become an Olympic athlete,” Gion said.
Sonann won bronze in the cadet division and said that just having a chance to compete against martial artists from around the U.S. will help him grow as an athlete.
“I’ll see how the other opponents spar and see if I can use that in my training,” he said.
Wais Hakimi, whose academy collected 17 medals at the Northern California tournament, said that in addition to the four black belts, he hopes to send seven more gold medalists. They qualified for the “grassroots” divisions of the national tournament, but their participation will depend on the academy’s ability to raise enough money to send them to Chicago.
They are red belt Nadia Resendiz, 7, blue belts Darrell Cenido, 6, and Gabriel Worth, 13, and yellow belts Julian Belloso, 9, Gabriel Hernandez, 9, Ajmall Gulham, 12, and Megan Landon, 12.
n Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.