By Doug Gorman
(Editor's note: This is the first of two stories about students at the Ultimate Dream Academy in McDonough).
Our Lady of Mercy High School student Leighandrea Burton was a state champion at the Class A state meet in the hurdles this past spring, but the 14-year-old's Olympic dreams are in the sport of tae-kwon-do, not track and field.
Burton is easily one the country's most talented athletes in the martial arts sport of tae-kwon-do.
After six years of participation, the black belt has an impressive record in competition.
At the last Junior Olympics, Burton finished with the bronze in sparring,, one of the sport's competitions.
She suffered a first defeat ever at the Junior Olympics.
She's not the only possible future Olympian who trains at the McDonough studio.
Matt Dixon, a 12-year-old who attends Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, recently won a gold in sparring, and a bronze in forms as a blue belt at the Junior Olympics.
Both athletes train under the direction of Master Instructor Eid M. Koja at the Ultimate Dream Academy in McDonough, a new business in the Southern Crescent, which is determined to build champions in gymnastics, cheerleading, tumblers and martial arts.
The facility is owned by Denise and Mark Jordan, who are excited about bringing this type facility to the area.
"We wanted to build the best Olympic-style facility possible in this area," said Mark Jordan. "When our students move on with their lives, we want them to be better people, but we also want them say `they had the best time of their life"
For Burton, there is plenty of reason to participate in the sport.
"I enjoy the discipline and all the hard work," she said. "There is also some fame and glory that can come from the hard work."
This time next year, Burton could compete her way on to the national team and a spot in the 2004 Olympic team.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work," she said. "Even once I get on the team, I'm going to have to keep working."
If Burton earns a gold medal at the next Junior Olympics, she will earn her place on the national team.
Burton's schedule keeps her busy. In the summer, she has been known to practice tae-kwon-do in the morning, track in the afternoon, and then return to the Ultimate Dream Academy in the evening."
"It's very tough sometimes," she said. "You go from one thing to the next."
Dixon shares Burton's love of the sport. The Eagle's Landing Christian student, was introduced to tae-kwon-do by his grandfather and has built an impressive martial arts resume in his own right.
"I am very frugal, I don't get rid of anything, so I am sure I will always keep my medals. When I get older, I will be very proud of them."
Koja is proud of all his students, and feels his strong belief in God gives him the guidance to instruct all of his students.
"I believe in God, and I think through him children can make the right decisions," Koja said. "We will take a child when they are a white belt and teach then the right way in Olympic-style tae-kwan-do."
Koja admitted he would love to turn everyone of his students into an Olympic champion, but in a more realistic goal, he just wants students to enjoy personal growth from their tae-kwon-do experience.
Denise Jordan, who is listed as president of the Ultimate Dream Academy, also wants the students to come away with some positive memories.
"If they become Olympic or collegiate champions, or a housewife, I want them to look back on this as a great experience," she said.
For more information on the Ultimate Dream Academy, call 770-957-5790.