June Athlete Profile - Kickin' It With...Thomas Lee(To view the complete profile on Thomas Lee, including photos, go to http://www.usa-taekwondo.us/624_2012.htm)
Thomas Lee, 17, reached the quarterfinals at last month's 2008 World Junior Taekwondo Championships in Izmir, Turkey, in the men's middleweight division. Last October, Lee captured a bronze medal at the Pan American Junior Championships in the men's light middleweight class. A senior at Rockville High School in Rockville, Md., Lee has also won three straight gold medals at the U.S. Open in the junior divisions. He trains at Remarck Sport Taekwondo under Master Patrice Remarck.
Thomas answered the following 10 questions for this month's USA Taekwondo Athlete Profile...
Q1: You are graduating from high school this spring. Will you be pursuing a college degree? If so, what are you planning to major in and what do you hope to do with your degree?
THOMAS LEE: Yes, I will be attending Stanford University this fall and pursuing a degree in psychology with a focus on Cognitive Science. Though I am extremely interested in this field, I could also possibly end up studying pre-med or sports medicine. Whatever the result, I hope to attend medical school afterwards. Stanford University was my first choice of school and I was very thrilled to be selected. Although it's a little far from home, I'm looking forward to the experience.
Q2: How did you feel at the recent World Junior Championships?
THOMAS LEE: The recent World Junior Championships was a fun and exhilarating experience. The people there were very kind and I must say it's probably the most unique and memorable country I've visited so far. The competition was bittersweet for me personally because I was disappointed with the scoring (especially since I fought Turkey), but the overall experience was priceless. The adrenaline rush of fighting an opponent with hundreds of people cheering against you, but also hearing your country as well as other countries supporting you is something I will never forget. I came back knowing that I am within the caliber of other top elite world competitors. This only makes me want to train harder for seniors!
Q3: Living in Maryland, are you more a fan of the Baltimore sports teams or the Washington D.C. teams?
THOMAS LEE: I've always been a die-hard fan of all sports in this area both professional and collegiate. The Redskins, Orioles, Wizards, and the Capitals, I love them all. The Nationals came to town a few years back, but I still remain loyal to the team I've always been cheering for since I was five. Whenever I have time I try to make it to the home games as much as possible.
Q4: What can you say about your coach, Patrice Remarck?
THOMAS LEE: Master Patrice is without a doubt one of the best coaches in the nation. He truly has a passion for Taekwondo and a genuine devotion to his students. He has fine-tuned me into a champion-caliber competitor and I wouldn't have accomplished all that I have without his support and teachings. I also would easily claim that he has one of the best personalities known to man. I mean who couldn't resist that smile and accent?
Q5: What was it like to be on the World Junior Team this year?
THOMAS LEE: The World Junior Team was amazing this year. To be with a group of people who has a similar mentality and devotion made me want to become even better. The time we spent together training was simply amazing because we bonded so fast and pushed each other past our physical and mental limits. Mr. Askinas and all the coaches were absolutely phenomenal and our team morale was at its highest every single day. I was very fortunate to have great success the past few years and being part of this World Junior Team has topped my Junior Taekwondo career.
Q6: What is it like training at Remarck Sport Taekwondo with other great young fighters?
THOMAS LEE: Training at RST is awesome, not only because Master Patrice is there but also because I get to train with John Hansel, Cody Thongtavee, the Kinley's, and the Samotshozo's. These guys are not only my teammates, they're like my brothers and we push each other everyday in practice. It's a fun serious atmosphere with a great camaraderie of students and coaches with one goal in mind, to become champions. Anthony Bell, TJ Jennings, and Arnell Smith have been our older brothers and have guided and taught us a tremendous amount. Hopefully, I can be just as great of a fighter as them one day.
Q7: After winning a bronze medal at last October's Pan Am Junior Championships, did you feel you were on your way to making this year's World Junior Team?
THOMAS LEE: Yes, definitely! Being in an environment with so many great fighters just makes you want to strive for higher goals and achievements. The only way I could keep making progress after Daytona was to, of course, make the World Junior Team. I've set my personal goals earlier in my Junior year and this was the ONE thing that was missing after the Pan Am Junior Championships.
Q8: What is your favorite exercise away from the mat?
THOMAS LEE: My favorite exercise would be soccer, football, or volleyball. Competing in Taekwondo has given me such a completive mindset; I hate to lose in anything! Even if I play against athletes who focus on that particular sport as I focus on Taekwondo, I always give it my 110% and give them a run for their money.
Q9: Were you talented when you started taekwondo?
THOMAS LEE: I started Taekwondo when I was 5 mainly to work toward becoming the next White Power Ranger. Soccer was my passion until I fought in my first Taekwondo tournament. Standing on the podium and getting that first-place trophy completely changed my favorite sport. I won my first nationals when I was 7 years old and got my first real taste of glory. I knew then Taekwondo was going to be a big part of my life.
Q10: How supportive are your parents, and how important is that to you?
THOMAS LEE: My parents are VERY supportive and they exceed the requirements of what makes an amazing parent, both on and off the Taekwondo mat. My family is very close, even my grandparents. I'm truly blessed and fortunate to have such a wonderful family. From driving me to my long practice to making sure I keep up with my grades in school, they do absolutely everything and I love them dearly for doing that.