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News | Sept. 23, 2015

US taking Taekwondo home to Korea for World Games

By Gary Sheftick Armed Forces Sports

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - Members of the U.S. Armed Forces Taekwondo team are preparing to compete in the ancestral home of their martial art as they train for the Military World Games in Korea.

About 7,000 athletes from more than 100 nations are scheduled to participate in the 6th Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM World Games, in Mungyeong, South Korea. The U.S. will field teams in 16 sports ranging from track and field to soccer, basketball and martial arts.

U.S. Taekwondo coach Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fennel said the host team will have a marked advantage this year in his sport.

"They're going to make it one of their headlined sports, because it's their national pastime," he said.

Two members of his Taekwondo team, though, feel almost like they will be competing on home turf. Capt. Jessica Meyer is stationed in Korea and came back to the states for the training camp at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

Sgt. 1st Class Edward Forquet said his family spent a lot of time when he was younger visiting his cousins in Korea. His mother is Korean and introduced him to Taekwondo at age 4. He expects many of his Korean relatives to be there cheering him on during the games.

"It's going to be like a little mini family reunion, I guess," Forquet said about CISM. He is a fourth-degree black belt who serves with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

This year Forquet took gold at the Taekwondo state championships in both North Carolina and Virginia after more than a decade of not competing due to deployments. He said bringing home gold from Korea, though, will be a challenge because he'll be competing against athletes from other nations who train together all year.

The U.S. Armed Forces Taekwondo Team has only been practicing together since Sept. 15, when they began their training camp.

"We have a very new team this year," said coach Fennell. "They're very physically capable and they're training hard every day."

"We hope to use this as a growth year and springboard into medals next year," Fennell said, but he hasn't completely given up on bringing home gold from Korea.

"Anything can happen," he added.

Staff Sgt. Ashley Sadlowski won a silver medal at the U.S. national championship in Austin, Texas, in July. She also competed in the last CISM Military World Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, four years ago.

Sadlowski serves with the 63rd Reserve Support Command in Mountain View, California. She lives in Oakland and took silver at the national championships last year in nearby San Jose.

She fought at Nationals as a heavyweight, though, and will be competing as a middleweight next week in Korea.

She plans to use more sidekicks from her front leg rather than roundhouse kicks from her back leg. She said that decision is due more to a change in the scoring system than a change in weight class, though. In the upcoming games, an electronic pad on the chest of competitors will sense the kicks and automatically score them. Judges will only manually score head shots and punches, she said.

Forquet is also practicing some new strategies.

"My game is to be a little bit more patient," he said, and wait for the opportunity to get inside. Many of his opponents will be much taller, so it's to his advantage to get in close, he said.

Forquet said he plans to use his opponents' height against them. He's practicing more active footwork to cause his opponents to displace. When they step or shuttle, they won't be able to kick at the same time. That's when he will go in for the attack.

The Koreans won't be the only strong opponents at CISM, though, he said.

"A lot of the big powerhouses are going to be there," Forquet said.

Iran has a strong team, Fennell said. Last year's Taekwondo CISM championship was in Iran. Germany, France and others are also expected to be heavy contenders.

A total of 38 nations are expected to compete in the sport this year at the games.

"Any one of them can surprise the world," coach Fennel said about his seven athletes.

Also on the U.S. Armed Forces Taekwondo Team:

- Sgt. Lamonte Kelly from the Florida National Guard
- Sgt. Michael Warner from Fort Wainwright, Alaska
- Air Force Tech. Sgt. Quinton Beach from Alaska
- 1st Lt. Joshua Fletcher from U.S. Army Hawaii