Local TaeKwonDo teens make National Team

An elite group of teens is getting some well-earned time in the spotlight.

Seven members of Texas G-Force Elite, a competitive Taekwondo team that practices at The Houston Center for Taekwondo in Spring Branch, qualified for the Team USA Taekwondo Team Trials, held the first week of January in North Carolina. Naomi Alade, Joshua Alade, Taylor Jo Gavin, Raul Gonzalez, Sofia Palmer and Eric Morgan all made the cut.

All of them except Morgan made the trip to North Carolina, where the Alade siblings and Palmer won gold, landing them on Team USA’s National Team. Their wins also qualify them to go on to further competitions this year.

Sofia, 13, is a member of the AAU Cadet National Team, which includes those ages 12 to 14. Joshua, who turns 15 this year, is part of the Junior National Team, for those ages 15 to 17. They’ll head to the prestigious La Loma High Altitude Training Center in San Luis Petosi, Mexico this month with the AAU National Team and coaches. This is a training camp and World Open Tournament, where at least 15 different countries from the Pan American region will be in attendance.
Meanwhile, Naomi, who is 16, and part of the Team USA Senior National Team, will compete at the Senior Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this May.

All three will take part in the Cadet and Junior Pan Am Championships in Qeuretaro, Mexico this July. The Alade siblings are also set to compete at the Junior World Championships in Chunchon, Korea this October. Because Naomi will turn 17 in December, she’s able to compete in both the junior and senior categories.

It takes a huge commitment to compete at such a high level. Like other elite-level sports, students practice at the studio every day and spend many of their weekends away at competitions. Getting to and from tournaments is funded entirely by families.

While it is definitely a challenge, Corrie Palmer, Sofia’s mom, notices great benefits for these athletes.

“It helps them with maturity,” she said. “They’re juggling their practice and school, so they’re learning time management. Every martial art is grounded in teaching respect for coaches and other athletes, so they absorb that as well. And they’re seeing a wider world when they’re competing around the U.S. and in other countries.”

The seven members of Texas G-Force Elite also compete with the nine members of Texas G-Force, a competitive team that goes to tournaments all over the state. Palmer notes that the families of team members have become like extended family themselves, seeing each other at competitions and cheering each other on.

The teams are coached by Gianni Giambi, who’s served as head coach of Team USA and been AAU National Head Coach.

“He’s done amazing things for our team,” said Palmer.

And the team has also done something amazing. They founded a nonprofit, G-Force Achieve, which raises money for its participants’ continued study and travel expenses. The group actively participates in a variety of service projects, which allow the athletes to get out into the community and demonstrate not only their commitment to the city, but also promote the sport to others. Scholarship money for taekwondo classes is also available.

As these young people take their next steps into competition, Houston will be cheering them on.

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