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Pope father and son win gold medals at U.S. Open Taekwondo competition

  • Published
  • By Marvin Krause
  • 43rd Airlift Group Public Affairs
A Pope Airman and his son recently won gold, silver and bronze medals in several taekwondo events during the 6th annual U.S. Open Taekwondo Hanmadang competition held in Colorado Springs, Colo.  

Master Sgt. Stephen Wall, 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, his wife Staff Sgt. Melissa Wall, 43rd Medical Squadron and son Kelan, 7, traveled to Colorado Springs with 19 other competitors from Spring Lake's U.S. Taekwondo Center led by Grand Master Myong Sok Namkung Mayes, a 9th Dan black belt who is known in South Korea as 'The Living Legend'.

Wall won gold medals in the three events he competed in, creative and power breaking and traditional forms. Kelan competed in four events and won gold medals in creative breaking and forms, a silver medal in traditional pairs and a bronze medal in traditional forms. There were a total of 1,600 competitors from 26 states and South Korea in this year's two-day competition.

"Kelan and I came out shiny after the tournament. Our school won 35 gold and a combined total of 54 medals by 20 competitors--a huge success," said Wall. "With the teamwork and commitment of our team, the families and the instruction provided by the staff at the Spring Lake USTC, we are able to keep the traditions, heritage and discipline of martial arts alive in Spring Lake," he said.
Wall started practicing martial arts over two years ago when his youngest son Mason, 5, expressed an interest in the sport along with Kelan who has been practicing taekwondo for 3 years. They practiced every day at the Spring Lake USTC after work and school in preparation for their first visit to this tournament. Mason was too young to compete in this year's tournament but plans on competing in next year's tournament.

"Kelan has been training since he was four and is like a child prodigy when it comes to taekwondo. He picks it up fast and will obtain his black belt in December, which is very quick for his age. My other son, Mason and I are currently blue belts," said Wall.

Melissa coordinated all of training and many of the fundraising events in order to help offset the expenses that went along with putting together an amazing experience for all of the Spring Lake USTC families that helped bring home the medals from Colorado said Wall.

Wall has been selected for a 1-year short-tour assignment to South Korea later this year, but plans on attending next year's tournament in Colorado Springs during his mid-tour leave to watch both of his sons compete.

Taekwondo sparring is very well known as an Olympic sport. However, because of the high skill level and physical conditioning needed to be successful at sparring, the average Taekwondo School in the United States only has approximately 10 percent of the student body participating in sparring class and competitions. The U.S. Open Taekwondo Hanmadang events are for the other 90 percent of Taekwondo students who do not participate in sparring. The U.S. Open Taekwondo Hanmadang offers the opportunity for the 90 percent to display their skills in traditional forms, creative forms, creative board breaking, power breaking and demonstration team events.