Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Local athlete eyes challenge

Accokeek resident attempts to qualify for U.S. World Junior team

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Gazette
Olie Burton (left) practices at Remarck Sports Taekwondo in Alexandria, Va. on Friday. Burton is competing for a spot in the World Junior Championships May 8-11 in Turkey.
When Gwynn Park High School freshman Olie Burton first began taking taekwondo lessons at age 5 at Andrew’s Air Force Base, he never envisioned having the opportunity to compete internationally.

Not long after he began taking lessons nearly 10 years ago, Burton earned his white belt and then his yellow belt within six months and then began competing in tournaments. Eight weeks from now, he will take part in the most demanding, most important tournament of his young career.

During the first weekend of April, Burton will be among 80 athletes heading to Des Moines, Iowa, looking to earn one of 20 spots to represent the United States in the World Junior Championships in Izmir, Turkey, May 8-11. Burton earned his chance to compete in Des Moines by winning his division in a recent tournament at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the fight-offs in Des Moines will have a huge impact on his future.

‘‘I like the competition and I like the contact,” said Burton, who has forsaken all of his other athletic ventures to dedicate his time to taekwondo. ‘‘I also like being around my teammates. All of my teammates have been really supportive.”

Like most athletes with Olympic aspirations, Burton endures a difficult practice and training schedule. His weeknight practices in Alexandria, Va., under the guidance of former Olympian and World Champion Patrice Remarck, last two hours, while his weekend practices can span as many as five hours. Despite the physical demands, Burton admits he can bounce back right away.

‘‘Our practices are usually pretty tough,” said Burton, who said he hopes to major in accounting at Princeton University or the University of Maryland. ‘‘Those practices definitely keep me in shape. I’m usually fine the next day. Having Patrice as my instructor has been really important in helping me get to the next level. He was a world champion. He knows what I need to do to keep improving.”

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