Photo By Gabriel Stovall / The Tiger Martial Arts Tae Kwon Do team took home five gold metals, two silver and one bronze during the Junior Olympics in Dallas, Texas earlier this month.
The Tiger Martial Arts team made its coach Eid Koja especially proud this year.
And it wasn’t just because his Tae Kwan Doe students took home more gold medals at this year’s Junior Olympics in Dallas, Texas — they seem to do that every year.
It was how they won that prompted his ear-to-ear smile as he boasted of his pupils’ gifts.
“They were very determined,” Koja said. “Our team has done an outstanding job competing on a level as high as the Junior Olympics. This was a huge step forward for our kids in martial arts.”
For some like 14-year old Leon Phillips and 10-year old Samantha Sealy, it was particularly special. Both Phillips and Sealy, who competed in the Junior Olympics for the first time, took home gold and bronze medals respectively. While 10-year old Jay’la Lewis (gold) won in come-from-behind fashion.
“I’m especially proud of Jay’la for how she won,” Koja said. “She was facing an undefeated girl from another Olympic team and was losing 2-5. We changed her strategy and told her to get more aggressive and that was that. Jay’la won 9-5. The undefeated girl never scored again.”
Lewis said she was pleased with her performance this year because it shows that she’s improving each time she competes.
“It was pretty cool to beat an undefeated girl,” said Lewis who competed in the Junior Olympics for her second time. “It was tougher this year than last year. Way more fights and higher belts. Each year it gets harder and harder.”
Miguel Vasquez, 13, had a similar story. The world class division performer grabbed a silver in Dallas before going to a national AAU championship tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the same week and picking up a gold.
Like Lewis, Vasquez fell behind his Junior Olympic opponent early before Koja coached him up to a furious comeback.
“I thought I was going to lose for a while there,” Vasquez said. “But after [Koja] told me what to do, I won it. It felt good.”
At age 21, Matthew Dixon is the veteran in Koja’s group. He’s been competing since age six. But even Dixon said he learned something from his latest gold medal conquest in Dallas.
“One thing I was able to be reminded of was that in fighting, everything from the way you plant your feet, toes or heels is important,” Dixon said. “Even how you breathe has an impact on a fight’s outcome.”
Koja was not only proud of his fighters, but he also passed out high praise to his coaches as well. His son and assistant coach Aladdin Koja, and assistant instructor Gerald Boveland has been working with Eid Koja since 2001.
And without them, Eid Koja said his school’s success wouldn’t be near as great.
“I have to give a special thanks to those guys because they are always there to add to what we’re doing, whether I’m here or not,” Eid Koja said.
The Tigers Martial Arts medal winners were: Dixon (gold), Sinclair Cannady (gold), Phillips (gold), Lewis (gold), Angel Vasquez (gold), Ismaaeel Ali (silver), Miguel Vasquez (silver) and Samantha Sealy (bronze).