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CRAFTSBURY-When Krister Barclay was four years-old his mother Kim introduced him to the sport of Tae Kwon Do by having him sign up for classes at Dunlavey's Black Belt Academy.
Nine years later, he has traveled around the country and across the globe in pursuit of Tae Kwon Do excellence.
Last week I went out to meet Krister and Kim and discuss his career, his travels and everything in between.
Kim, who is from Korea, spoke about how she got her son involved in the sport.
"I wanted him to learn something having to do with his Korean heritage, and since he was so shy, I wanted him to to do something that was a little more outgoing."
Said Krister on his early recollections the sport, "It looked really cool and I wanted to be in the Olympics, so..."
Hold on, did he say... Olympics?
Yes he did.
Pretty impressive goals for a four year-old.
But, Krister took to the sport like a fish to water, and he began to train in earnest.
"He was very into it and he liked what he was doing," said Kim. "I told him that some days it is going to be hard, but you are going to have to continue, persevere, and you will enjoy it more."
And enjoy it more he did. He continued to train at Dunlavey's going up the ranks step by step and belt by belt.
"I just focused and motivated myself because I wanted to be a black belt, so I worked really hard, and when it happened I was extremely proud."
So was his mom, who noted that during the entire time he was training, not once did the young student complain about the training process.
"He was always ready and wanted to go to class. It was never a matter of forcing him to do something, he did it on his own. He practiced hard, he trained hard, and he gave one-hundred percent at every practice and tournament he went to."
He achieved the rank of black belt at age ten, but around this time he was looking to change the style of Tae Kwon Do he was involved in.
At Dunlavey's, they teach an international version of the sport, and Krister was looking to get into the Olympic discipline of TKD, so he found a new master in Gordon White and his Blue Wave Tae Kwon Do.
"The Olympic (style) is more challenging and there is more stuff to learn," Krister said about the switch.
Now training in Burlington, Krister started to broaden his horizon's and add to his accomplishments, including a trip this past spring to the AAU National Championship where he placed third in his division.
"There is a different mind set you have to deal with (at the nationals), and the competition is much tougher" he said about competing on the big stage.
This spring also saw Krister get a chance to visit his mother's homeland when he and a couple of students from Portland, ME traveled to Korea to train with and observe some of the top TKD athletes in the world, including members of the Korean National Demonstration Team.
"It was fun and exciting," Krister commented about his time in the far east. " They (the Korean athletes) were more experienced and they really train really well, so it was great to train with them."
For his mom, who also went on the trip, it was a chance to go back home.
"It had been eighteen years since I had been there last, and Krister got to see my home town where I grew up, and I introduced him to the food, the culture and the Korean school system," Kim said about the trip.
When Krister is not traveling the world, the soon to be 8th grader at Craftsbury Academy likes playing soccer, fishing, swimming and loves cross-country skiing.
And what is on the horizon for this talented youngster?
A lot of things actually.
The National Team Trials are coming up on September 6th, and Krister and a fellow martial artist from the Burlington area will be attending, looking to make a name for themselves at the national level.
There will be a fundraiser for this event held in Burlington on the 24th of August, and for more information you can call 802-324-3875 to see how you can help out a couple of Vermont youngsters achieve there dream.
Also on the docket is the Michigan Midwest Championship, the New England Championship, US Tae Kwon Do Classic, and eventually regional qualifying, and maybe the National Championship.
So as you can see, the thirteen year-old from Craftsbury has had quite a ride so far, but I have the feeling it is just the beginning.
Oh, and I might have to remember to mark down the dates of the summer Olympics in 2020 to if Krister achieves the dream that started when he was just four years-old.