By Janee Law
While most 8 year olds are typically busy playing video games, sports or riding their bikes, Preston Park, of Melville, has to his name 29 gold medals in the Korean martial art of Taekwondo. And he is already dreaming of one day earning gold at the Olympics.
He’s done it by spending most of his time developing his craft, typically training 20 hours a week with Grand Master Woosang Jung at Commack-based Ultimate Taekwondo Center.
Preston said he usually works on skills like his back kick, tornado kick and back hook kick.
Jung, a silver medalist of last year’s U.S. Open, said that Preston is very talented for his age.
“Most of the young kids want to play games, but he wants to get gold medals. He always works hard,” Jung said. “Mostly we train for speed, power, stamina, technique and movement.”
Then there are different combinations of kicking. Jung said he hopes he’ll be able to help Preston achieve his dreams of more golds.
But he’s already seen plenty gold medals since he started Taekwondo training almost two years ago. The second grader has participated in 38 championships and won 29 total gold medals, five silver medals and four bronze medals. In 2015, Preston was the winner of the U.S. Presidential Award, through which he was recognized by former President Barack Obama.
Along with striving for gold, Preston said Taekwondo is also fun for him, and he loves that it teaches him self-defense.
Earlier this year, Preston won four consecutive championships when he competed in the 2017 USA TaeKwonDo Maryland State Championships in Bel Air, Maryland; the 2017 US World Open TaeKwonDo Championships in Portland, Oregon; the 2017 USA TaeKwonDo New York State Championships in Queens; and the 2017 USA TaeKwonDo New Jersey State Championships in Hillsborough, New Jersey.
Each time, Preston earned gold in the Sparring “Black Belt Division” and the Poomsae "Black Belt Division."
So far this year he has eight gold medals.
Regarding his most recent medals, Preston said he was surprised, but added that “it was a good experience.”
Jay Park, Preston’s father, said that he had Preston take up Taekwondo training to teach him the culture.
“He’s a Korean American so I wanted to teach him the culture, language, discipline, and respect by doing Korean martial arts,” Park said.
He added that once Preston started competing he began taking Taekwondo more seriously.
“He keeps telling me that he wants to go to the Olympics when he turns 17,” Jay said. “He’s very different from other kids, that’s why I travel all over the United States and give him a chance to compete with the best.”
A second grader at Oakwood Primary Center in South Huntington, when Preston isn’t training he eats, sleeps, does his homework and plays Minecraft, he said.
“I’m happy that he loves what he does and that he has a passion for it,” his father said, adding that Preston is currently preparing for the 2017 USA TaeKwonDo Nationals in Detroit.
As always, Preston has his sights set on first place.
The national competition will be held in July and Preston will be representing New York, Maryland and New Jersey. He’ll compete on July 6 for both Olympic style Sparring and World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Poomsae.
After that, it’s off to Las Vegas. There, Preston is set to represent the U.S. at the 2017 WTF President’s Cup for the G2-World Ranking Event, which is slated for Oct. 5-8. This will mark the first time Preston will be attend the competition. If he wins, he will likely break into the WTF’s world rankings for his age group, Park said.
For both competitions, Preston is working diligently with Jung, and said he’s nervous but excited as well.
“I told him many times that winning is not important. What’s important is you have to try what you have learned from your master,” Park said. “If you lose, that’s OK. And if you win, that’s OK too. So just enjoy the game.”
He added, “Hopefully we can bring good news to Long Island, and especially for the Town of Huntington.”