By Abby Hill | July 12, 2013, 5 p.m. (ET)
Ryan Bieker and Andrew Leidenberger pose with the U.S. national taekwondo team.

Olympians work hard.

Eleven-year-olds Ryan Bieker and Andrew Leidenberger learned this first hand as they spent the day with taekwondo Olympians and Olympic hopefuls at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Bieker and Leidenberger are both crazy about the Olympic Games.

Andrew Leidenberger and Ryan Bieker at taekwondo practice
Ryan Bieker "training" like an Olympian at the Olympic Training
Center.
Olympic bronze medalist Terrence Jennings, head coach Patrice
Remarck and Olympic bronze medalist Paige McPherson pose with
Andrew Leidenbergerand Ryan Bieker.

“His (Ryan’s) room is like a shrine to the Olympics,” said Michael Bieker, Ryan’s father. “He watches footage about past Olympics that even I haven’t seen.”

Both boys are taekwondo athletes that train at the Tri Lakes Taekwondo in Palmer Lakes, Colo. Leidenberger, who has been doing taekwondo for four years, and Bieker, who has been training for a year and a half, both dream of competing in the Games someday.

They won the opportunity to spend the day with the athletes at the OTC at an auction.

Bieker and Leidenberger were present for Team USA’s final practice before leaving for the 2013 WTF World Taekwondo Championships, which are being held July 15-21 in Puebla, Mexico.

Head coach Patrice Remarck said that the team was “taking it easy” at the practice, but Bieker and Leidenberger said they could not believe how intense their version of “easy” looked.

The entire team, including 2012 Olympic bronze medalists Terrence Jennings and Paige McPherson, was sparring intensely.

“In our gym when we kick the paddles it just sound like ‘puh,’” Bieker said. “But their kicks sounded like gun fire.”

Between the smacks of the pads, yells of the athletes and encouragement from the coaches, the boys were mesmerized.

Coach Remarck and coach Barbara Kunkel, a 2000 Olympian,  took time to encourage Bieker and Leidenberger during practice. Coach Remark told the boys, “Come and see me as you get older, I will give you tips.”

He encouraged them further by telling him that he started taekwondo when he was 11.

“It is hard training, but anything is possible if you want it bad enough,” Remarck said.

The U.S. national team practices six days a week for four to six hours a day. Bieker and Leidenberger, who each go to practice one to two times a week, said this was unbelievable to them.

“I really enjoyed watching their routine,” Leidenberger said. “It was cool how they are able to do their own thing during practice.”

The athletes were working on specific skills for the world championships.

“Winning the Olympics is great, but in our sport a World Championship is close to the same level,” Terrence Jennings said. “It is a last man standing kind of tournament and it is a lot harder. This is the title to win.”

In this tournament there will be 90-120 fighters in each weight class. For this reason each participant could compete in up to seven fights.

“By fight five, you are running on mental fuel alone,” Jennings said. “Your body is so numb, but it will wait until the fight is over to begin hurting.”

Over lunch in the athlete center, Bieker and Leidenberger were able to have one-on-one time with Olympic medalists Jennings and McPherson and Pan American champion Lauren Hamon.

After talking about meeting the president and walking in the Opening Ceremony, the athletes gave advice to the 11-year-old Olympic hopefuls.

“My coach told me this and they are my words to live by: believe, breathe and be yourself,” McPherson said. “If you believe in yourself you will be so much better and will reach your maximized self.”

Jennings continued the advice and said, “Just take it one day at a time. You need to set small goals and they will turn into big goals.”

All the athletes were open with Bieker and Leidenberger about the challenges that come with being an elite athlete. Hamon, Jennings and McPherson told of their grueling training sessions, long trips to tournaments, lack of time with family and how they have to watch what they eat to meet weight.

None of that deterred the two young hopefuls.

“I want to keep getting better and when I am older I want to train here,” Bieker said.

Bieker and Leidenberger gained friends and fans during their day on the OTC. Before they left, coach Remarck stopped by again to remind them of their potential.

“You can do the same thing as them,” he said pointing at Jennings and McPherson. “Always remember that.”

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