Returning Champions Spotlight, Part 6

By Bill Kellick | June 12, 2019, 11:16 p.m. (ET)

In the weeks leading up to the 2019 USA Taekwondo National Championships, we will be highlighting returning National Champions. Enjoy the sixth installment below...

Aliyah Shipman

Hometown: Plantation, Florida


Division/category: -59 Junior 


Tell us about your experience in USATKD Nationals: It’s a very competitive and exciting event. I really enjoy Nationals because I see my friends from all over around the county and get to watch lots of exciting matches.


How did you feel about winning gold and being named a National Champion? It was an honor winning Nationals and being named a National Champion. I’m hoping to earn the same title again this year.


What did you enjoy about last year’s Nationals? I enjoyed seeing Utah for the first time with my family, and also enjoyed competing along with my fellow teammates.


What did your friends and family say about you being a National Champion? My friends and family are very proud of me, and they are very supportive of my journey in Taekwondo.


What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s National Championships? I look forward to seeing my friends, spending time with my family, and competing.


What have you done training-wise to prepare for this year’s National Championships? I’ve been training using the specific training plan put together by my coach. 

Luis Salazar

Hometown: El Paso, TX

Division/category: Cadet under 41 male (Now Junior under 45)


Tell us about your experience in USATKD Nationals:  It's the most important tournament in which I have the experience to compete with the best TKD athletes of the nation. It is very exciting and a great challenge.


How did you feel about winning gold and being named a National Champion? It is the dream of every athlete to be the best, but not comparing your abilities with the other ones if not with yourself, and to be named a National Champion is a great experience that it is difficult to explain in words

 

What did you enjoy about last year’s Nationals? USATKD National 2018 was a great tournament and my last experience in the cadet division. I learned very important skills that helped me to be prepared for the Junior division.

 


What did your friends and family say about you being a National Champion? I'm very grateful with my family and friends because they always support me and all their deep talks, words of encouragement and hugs help me to give my best in every competition. My family and friends were very happy because all my training and effort have had positive results

 


What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s National Championships? I hope to exceed my expectations this year, give my 100 percent in this new category and division to be in medals and if it is possible pursue the gold medal.

 


What have you done training-wise to prepare for this year’s National Championships? For this national I have been training very hard and I had taken several TKD camps that are specialized in the tactical and technical part, in addition I have been preparing myself in the physical-athletic part to be in shape and get the best results.

Ayden Christensen

Hometown: Springville, Utah


Division/category: Junior-63kg


Tell us about your experience in USATKD Nationals: Nationals is always a tournament that I look forward too. It is great because it brings my friends from all over the U.S. Nationals is always run well and there's no confusion of where and when you are going to compete. Nationals is really a fun tournament to go to.


How did you feel about winning gold and being named a National Champion? Winning Nationals last year was awesome. It didn’t really hit me that I had won until the day after. Mostly because I was too tired to really think. It was a privilege to be able to fight the with best kids in the nation. My mom is always telling me to be humble and go shake my opponents hand no matter if I win or lose. Having good sportsmanship has become very important to me because through it, I have been able to make lifelong friends with some of my opponents. 


What did you enjoy about last year’s Nationals? Last year’s Nationals were run very well. The best part was that the weigh-in and check-in lines were nice and short. They had it so you were in and out in like five minutes. There was no two-hour line to stand in. It was great. 


What did your friends and family say about you being a National Champion? Most of them, if they knew, just said good job. However, it was summer and we were all mostly concentrated on enjoying our long needed break from school! 


What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s National Championships? I am looking forward to seeing all of my friends from all over the U.S. I am also excited just to compete. Competing is my favorite part of Taekwondo. Nationals is a great place to find and make new friends. I am also excited to use all of the training and hard work that I have put over the past year since Nationals. 

 

What have you done training-wise to prepare for this year’s National Championships? I have been running in the mornings to build up my endurance.I have been putting 2-3 hour trainings a day and I have been going to all of the region two camps that have been provided to me.

 

Naomi Bennett

Hometown: Maple Grove, MN


Division/category: -55kg Juniors


Tell us about your experience in USATKD Nationals: Before my first match, I was excited as well as a little nervous because I wanted to win Gold. I took one match at a time and tried not to worry about finals until the time came.


How did you feel about winning gold and being named a National Champion? It felt really good to win gold and being named a National Champion. The previous year, I fought hard but fell short in sudden death and won bronze.


What did you enjoy about last year’s Nationals? I enjoyed celebrating with my teammates and peers who also won gold last year.


What did your friends and family say about you being a National Champion? My friends and family said that they knew it was going to happen someday. I just had to be patient and keep on training and working hard.


What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s National Championships? I am looking forward to having my extended family and friends in Minneapolis to support me and cheer me on since Nationals is in my home state.


What have you done training-wise to prepare for this year’s National Championships? I have been running to build my stamina, working on my kicks and blocks every day with my teammates or by myself, and watching my some of my matches.