By Ryan Lucas
Along the tightrope of elite sports, very few athletes are as steady in balance as Carissa Fu.
In academics, the 25 year old is a superstar; she’s scheduled to finalize her master’s degree in forensic anthropology from the Boston University School of Medicine in September, having earned a B.A. from Princeton in 2011.
On the taekwondo mat, Fu is one of the game’s young American luminaries.
The 2014 National Collegiate Taekwondo Association’s Female Athlete of the Year, she is both accomplished and well-rounded; according to the NCTA website, this year she became the first female in Team USA history to qualify for both the poomsae and sparring events at the World University Taekwondo Championship.
Whether pushing herself in sparring or poomsae, Fu is all about equilibrium.
“I think both benefit events each other greatly, so it’s not like I’m just going to be doing one and, when that’s finished, doing the other,” she said earlier this month at the 2014 USA Taekwondo National Championships in San Jose, Calif. “I think they both definitely help strengthen each other.
“Being able to do both at a high level consistently, being able to stay healthy, knowing when I need to rest so I don’t overwork myself or get beyond the point in which I feel comfortable and just being able to manage myself in training will be a very challenging yet fruitful process for me.”
Off the mat, the tenor of Fu’s second half in 2014 will take her from the bliss of graduation at BU to the pangs of uncertainty in searching for a job. As a competitor, maintaining focus as she prepares for the World Poomsae Championships in October and the next incarnation of the USAT National Team Trials, the date of which is still undetermined, will be essential.
Replicating her success from the 2014 National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships—where she earned gold medals in sparring (bantam world class) and poomsae (pairs), along with a bronze medal in individual poomsae—and the 2014 USAT National Championships—where she hauled in four medals, including a gold in individual poomsae—will not be easy.
Fu’s poise as a multitalented athlete, therefore, has never been more important. And, in both of her events, she knows she must continue to rely upon the bulwark of her support system.
“At times, I think it can be difficult, but I think it’s just a matter of being able to manage it with my coach and my teammates in both poomsae and sparring,” Fu said. “There are a lot of us in Boston who do both, so at least we have that mutual community there to help each other.”
Fu can also move forward with the added confidence of having attained two major goals in 2014. Her performances in poomsae pairs and sparring at the 2014 NCAT Championships made for a memorable event.
“This was the first year I’d made the poomsae pairs with my partner, David Chan, so that was a huge accomplishment for both of us,” Fu said. “Just being able to make the team in that was special because it’s always such a stacked event.
“Then, in sparring, people having been noticing that I’ve been knocking at the door for some time, so that was definitely quite a rush. I was able to get through the day in a double-elimination bracket, so it was definitely a very amazing day.”
With her thoughts aligned in the moment, Fu is reluctant to envision her place in taekwondo a few years into the future.
The arc of her course through the sport—beginning in Southern California at age 7, moving to Beijing with her family at age 14, taking a hiatus late in high school to focus on college applications, restarting in competition upon her return to the U.S.—and the difficulty of the tasks ahead lead her to take nothing for granted.
“I’d like to see where I could go, both in poomsae and in sparring,” Fu said. “You never know, and we’ll see how things progress in terms of being able to go to U.S. Opens with points and all that, so I think it has to be one step at a time right now.
“I was able to become a Senior National Team member in poomsae, so we’ll see how far I can go in terms of my placement in the world. Then for sparring, we’ll see how I’m able to do with the USA Team Trials, but it’d be wonderful to progressively go up the levels and just take it one step at a time.
“I would hope that maybe the Olympics are in sight, but we’ll see. I want to take it slowly at this point right now.”