Laurissa Thomas, right, kicks her opponent during the gold medal match at the 2019 USA Taekwondo National Champion-ships in Minneapolis on July 1. Thomas, 14, won the gold medal in the Cadet Female Heavyweight Division for blue belts ages 12-14.
“She received the first round bye and was seeded No. 1,” said her coach, Mark Anawski. Thomas trains at Brookings Tae Kwon Do.
“Her first match ended in the first round because her opponent got hurt and did not want to continue. Laurissa was in the lead,” Anawski said.
“Her gold medal match ended at the end of the second round because she point-gapped her opponent 28-8. It was absolutely amazing to see her in action. Lots of hard work has finally paid off. I am so proud of her!” Anawski said.
Thomas started training almost three years ago and is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Taekwondo in the Cadet Female Heavyweight Division for blue belts ages 12-14.
She started taekwondo because she wanted to get active and healthier and thought martial arts would be a good way to do it. Thomas has developed her skills by sparring other martial artists, even up the ranks to black belts.
“I like sparring black belts because they are definitely more of a challenge and they let me practice and then I can learn from it,” Thomas said.
She’s very coachable, according to Anawski, with natural gifts – “she kicks fast and hard” – but she still has a lot to learn, “which is kind of the exciting part,” he said. “She’s a natural presence in the ring.”
National competition is just the beginning: Thomas has set her sights on the 2024 Olympics in Paris and then in the future, she wants to be an instructor herself.
There are some steps to take in the meantime.
“The anticipation is (in) two years she’ll be a black belt as a Junior so she does have those opportunities to be on that Junior National Team and go to Worlds as a Junior National competitor,” Anawski said. “It’s based on points. So once you make black belt, you can start becoming world-ranked.”
“I just want to compete at the highest level possible,” Thomas said.