By RAY QUIROGA
Port Isabel-South Padre PRESS
Peter Caceres, owner -operator of Olympian Fitness in Port Isabel admits that as much confidence he had in his athletes, even he was surprised that no less than 11 of his students advanced to the 2013 USA Taekwondo National Championships to be held in Chicago July 3-9.
Caceres took his students to the state championships this past weekend expecting two or three of his students to advance against the best Taekwondo competition the Lone Star State had to offer.
“I knew we would do well based on the tournaments we competed in here in the Valley, but I didn’t really expect to have 11 going. Everybody was just awesome at State,” Caceres, who competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics representing his birth country of Argentina as a runner, said.
Caceres, who’s 53 years old (looks more like 33) began practicing Taekwondo in his 30s. “I love martial arts, I love sports and when we moved here, I saw there was nothing really like this, so I told my wife Daisy that we really needed to do something here,” Caceres said.
Tom Kuhm, a mild-mannered San Benito High School AP chemistry teacher by day, is a ferocious martial artist by night – or at least ferocious enough to advance to nationals as part of Caceres’ team.
Having only started his Taekwondo career a mere year ago, Kuhm, a resident of Laguna Vista, said that he was first a casual spectator who drove his granddaughter to Caceres’ Maxan Street facilities for her Taekwondo lessons. Then, “I decided to get off my lazy butt and get up there and do it with her,” Kuhm explained, adding that he’s lost 20 pounds and feels 100 percent better than he did before he became active in the sport.
“I love the artistry of the sport, trying to be exact and memorizing all the forms. For me, that’s more interesting than just running and lifting weights, which is rather repetitious,” Kuhm said.
Laguna Madre Water District plant operator and Port Isabel native Noe Cantu, 29, has only participated in the sports for seven months. Still, he was able to advance to nationals by placing first in his division at the state tournament.
“Same thing as with Mr. Tom, my daughter started here and I needed to lose weight. I had some blood pressure issues and this was perfect for me because my daughter was already coming here,” Cantu said.
Each of the men agreed that practice and commitment makes a champion. “Every single day you have to practice hard,” Kuhm said, adding that he’s at Olympian Fitness three to five days a week and then practices at home on his own time.
“It’s all about you. If you don’t put forth the effort, everything you have inside, you are not going to do as well as the next person,” Cantu said.
Next, the material artists will have to organize a series of fundraisers to help offset the travel costs and entry fees which are quite pricey.
Read this story in the March 28 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.