Eight area athletes from Focus Martial Arts & Fitness in Lake in the Hills qualified for the AAU/USA Karate Team after placing in the top two at national competitions.
Those qualifying were Joshua Heidenreich, Timmy O’Hara, Kai Hayashi and Teagan Hayes from Cary; Zach Bernard and Andrew London from Lake in the Hills; Leah Hanacek from Crystal Lake and Jake Pottle from Algonquin.
The group was led by sensei Jim O'Hara, the owner of Focus. O'Hara said to get even one person on a national team out of a facility is a major event.
“You usually hear about onesies,” O'Hara said. “Eightsies is pretty amazing. We’re really excited about that.”
O'Hara is also the coach of the national team but said that had no impact on the selection process. “I have no bearing on them making the team,” O'Hara said. “I’m tougher on them than any of the other coaches involved in that process.”
O'Hara is proud of their accomplishments but even more so because they also are maintaining high academic marks, a requirement at Focus. “These kids put the time in. They put the effort in, “ O'Hara said. “They’re training anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week.”
Most of the group qualified during the AAU National Karate Tournament from June 30 to July 4 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Some also qualified at the AAU Junior Olympics Aug. 6 to 8 in Chesapeake, Virginia.
In about two weeks, O'Hara will accompany London, 16, to Koper, Slovenia, for the World Karate Championships. London started karate in a park district program and has been training at Focus since he was 8.
In June, the group will compete in the World Union Karate Federation World Karate Championships in Dublin, Ireland. And this isn’t the kind of karate that has been portrayed in movies.
“It’s not the kind of stuff you see in the 'Karate Kid,' ” O'Hara said. “This is for real.” O'Hara said the top three distractions for athletes are the coach, the parents and their peers.
“Those are all recipes for disappointment and letting people down,” O'Hara said. “That’s a huge burden.” O'Hara said he prepares them for competition by making his athletes perform in uncomfortable situations.
At Navy Pier recently, he asked one of his team members to approach two random people and perform their forms for them and then ask to be critiqued. Another time, at a crowded Ogilvie Station in Chicago, he asked one of them to perform in front of everybody.
O'Hara said that person’s heart rate went from about 75 to 175 in less than 10 seconds. But being able to perform in those situations makes performing in a competition, even if it’s a national or world event in a foreign country, a lot easier.
“It’s a big factor in how they perform not only locally but nationally and internationally,” O'Hara said.
• Original Story Published by the Northwest Herald and written by Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.