It’s safe to say that gold runs through HK Taekwondo athlete Zachary Hampton’s veins.
The 13-year-old recently brought home a gold medal from the President’s Cup, fighting alongside Team USA, which represents the nation in the Olympics. The President’s Cup was held Oct. 11-14 in Las Vegas. Hampton also earned a gold medal at the USA Taekwondo National Competition held from July 2 to July 9 in Salt Lake City.
Hampton, an eighth grader at Leander ISD’s Canyon Ridge Middle School, said he worked hard with his trainer Master Hyun Kim, owner of HK Taekwondo in Cedar Park, to improve his stamina, mindset and overall performance.
“We trained on what I could have done better at Nationals,” explained Hampton. “Last time, I needed to work on covering in areas like my chest because I had a bad habit of getting hit and kicked. Also, I needed to work on not fighting out of bounds and getting outside the ring.”
Hampton said he also met with familiar and unfamiliar opponents at the President Cup.
“The brackets were bigger this time around,” he said. “For my size, I got four fights. It was important to keep my head in the game after each fight and I just took it one step at a time. It can get pretty overwhelming. My second match, I faced off against someone I had fought back at Nationals. I had my advantages and disadvantages: I knew how he fought so I could kind of figure out the way he thinks from his last match but that also goes the same way for him. He’s a tough guy. He likes to push. I thought about that a bit and got more technical with it. I think there was a mental game there, more than a physical one.”
Hampton won all four fights, going up against opponents coming all the way from countries like Brazil and Chile. Kim said it can be difficult to keep a calm mentality when fights stack up.
“Some athletes had to do four, five and even more fights,” said Kim. “So at the end, when you’re getting towards the final fights, your technique and training are very important but it’s also very much about conditioning. Zach is really into cardio so that was a huge advantage for him to keep him stamina up.”
Kim is the head coach for the 2018 Texas Taekwondo Varsity League (TTVL) male team and has trained athletes for 20 years. Hampton said he wanted to prove his ability in the prestigious competition.
“My main goal wasn’t a medal, it was to get my name out there and give myself a chance to do this,” said Hampton. “It had some challenges: the first match, this guy was maybe six inches taller than I was. Getting my foot up there to kick, I had to jump. It was tough. By the fourth match, it was like, so I got this far. The adrenaline kicks in as high as you can get and I just pushed forward.”
HK Taekwondo opened in Aug. 2006. Hampton has been practicing since he was 5 years old.
His two younger siblings, Bryce, 10, and Danica, 7, and his mother, Nicole, have also joined in the sport.
HK Taekwondo is located at 200 South Bell Blvd., C-2, Cedar Park. For more information, call 512-260-0060 visit http://hk-tkd.com/.