|Kendall Yount stands atop the podium at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Aug. 21, 2014.|
NANJING, China -- Kendall Yount is getting the full Youth Olympic Games experience. Five days after carrying the U.S. flag into the Opening Ceremony in Nanjing, China, Yount earned a gold medal in the women’s +63 kg. taekwondo competition Thursday night, while Uzbekistan’s Umida Abdullaeva took silver, and China’s Chen Li and Ukraine’s Yuliia Miiuts were both awarded bronze.
Yount last faced Abdullaeva in the final of the Youth Olympic Games qualifier in March, when Abdullaeva came out on top, 4-3. The tables were turned in Nanjing where Yount overcame her opponent 4-2.
“The final was amazing, she did so good!” Yount said of Abdullaeva. “There were a lot of close shots, a lot of scoring shots. It was great.”
The score was tied, 1-1, two rounds into the match, but the third and final round would see two video replays, the first of which would grant Yount three points.
“I was pretty sure that I had scored but you never know with video reviews,” Yount said. “Sometimes the cameras show it, sometimes they don’t. I was nervous, but I thought I scored.”
Yount has been scoring since she began taekwondo at age 4 when she and her father, who had also practiced martial arts himself, first walked into a dojang in her home state of Kentucky. Yount was hooked from the start.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I fell in love with the competitiveness, but I also fell in love with the respect people show forth toward other competitors.”
Fast forward 12 years and Yount spends three hours a day, six days a week training in her garage with her father, a regimen that bumps up to six hours a day when she’s not in school. With all that practice it’s no wonder Yount has reached the top of the international podium at such a young age.
While six U.S. athletes made it to the Youth Olympic Games qualifier, Yount was the only one who secured a spot to compete in Nanjing, which, she said, brought on some pressure.
“There was pressure, but there was also pride,” she said. “I was excited to be here and represent those who didn’t qualify and I know that they’re behind me 100 percent. They’re so supportive.”
Yount has clearly excelled at being an ambassador for her sport, taking home a gold medal and carrying the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony.
“It was so amazing to be able to hold that flag and walk it through and say I’m representing everyone in USA that I love,” Yount said.
While most of the U.S. Youth Olympic Team athletes had not yet met Yount when they selected her prior to the Aug. 16 ceremony, it has become clear they made the right choice. She quickly gained friends in several sports, as evidenced by the divers, rugby players and triathletes who spent the day at the International Expo Center cheering on Yount. She said she saw the American flags and heard the chants of “USA-USA” before and after her matches, both “uplifting and motivating” her.
“So many emotions ran through me when I looked over and saw them all there,” Yount said. “I can’t thank them enough for being here. It means so much.”
Now that she is finished competing, Yount says she is looking forward to attending “every single sport I can possibly fit in.
“It’s been awesome to be able to learn what they do and show them what I do in my sport,” she explained. “I’ve been exposed to a whole new dynamic of sport.”