Mia Chang: Gifted Champion
Thirteen-year-old Mia Chang, an eighth-grader at Damien is a two-time national taekwondo champion who represented the United States at the World Cadet Taekwondo Championships in South Korea this past August
At just five years old, Mia started learning the art of taekwondo and says that starting so young “really paid off.” When asked if there was a specific moment she realized she would be exceptional at taekwondo, Mia answered, “No, not really. I mean when I started to medal and began winning, I realized that I may have a gift.”
There is no doubt that Mia has natural athletic talent, but she also has a "gift" for perseverance and self-discipline. “When I won (the national title) my first year, I was just filled with joy,” said Mia. “All that was going through my mind was that all the training finally paid off. I didn’t really have any expectations of winning that tournament. I had just (turned) twelve...and it was my first year as a cadet so I was just really excited to fight.” That “gift” enabled her to earn another national title earlier this year, this time in the light middleweight division.
Mia explains, “The reason I work so hard is because the feeling of success is priceless. When I made the (United States) team the first time, it was the best feeling ever. The feeling of success pushed me to work harder.”
When asked if she trained differently for the world championships than for the national trials she answered, “I trained the same for both tournaments. I prepared myself the best I could even though I would be fighting someone from across the world.”
Mia’s first match at the World Championships in South Korea was against an athlete from Ecuador and Mia prevailed 11 – 2. “I was really happy with my first fight,” said Mia. “The first fight was pretty much me getting over my nerves and just trusting that I could win it. I let out all my nerves in the first fight and it really helped.”
In her second match, Mia was outscored by a competitor from Great Britain, 9 – 14. When asked about that loss, Mia responded, “I know that I could have won my second match. The nerves got to me though and that’s what really affected me in the fight. After I lost, it was the end of the tournament for me but I cheered my team on when they fought.”
Mia is undoubtedly a team player also. She did a little sightseeing while in Korea, but spent most of her time there dieting (getting down to weight), competing, and “cheering on the U.S.A. at the tournament.”
When asked to describe taekwondo in one word or short phrase, Mia replied, “It’s all in your mind. If you don’t believe in yourself or if you give up that will show in the fight.” Mia stated the loss in South Korea did not test or shake her positive attitude. She said, “The fact that I made it this far is really a big accomplishment for me. To know that you are the best in the U.S. is a great honor. It would have been amazing if I won the tournament but I’m happy at where I am right now.”
During the past two years, Mia competed in the Cadet (12 – 14 year old) division and will move up to the Junior (15 - 17 year old) division next year. And what about joining a Damien sports team? Mia said she is thinking about trying out for volleyball in the future and possibly other sports but admits she has little time since she has taekwondo practice every day after school.