By Mark Hallum
Baysider Michael Mancuso, 16, walked away from the U.S. Junior National Championship with a Gold Medal in taekwondo in July and is officially No. 1 in the country for Middle Lightweight competitors.
The win in Richmond, Va, will lead Mancuso to the US National team finals where he will have the chance to represent the United States in the Junior World Championship, in which only one fighter is chosen for each weight class in the entire country.
Mancuso trains about 20 hours per week to achieve the advantage he enjoys over his competitors and has 11 years of experience in martial arts, Master Andrew Oh said. Oh is a 5th-degree Certified World Taekwondo Federation Black Belt and uses his Bayside training facility, Champions Taekwondo at 213-18 48th Ave., to pass on his expertise to the next generation of contenders.
Oh said Mancuso is not only learning from him, but is also getting to share in the knowledge of the top taekwondo experts in the nation. Mancuso recently returned from a four-day training session at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
The U.S. Junior National Champion had around 5,000 competitors with 22 in Mancuso’s division.
Mancuso is self-assured in his prospects for the Junior World Championship but has respect for the formidable teams representing Korea and Iran.
“We fought it out and I won,” Mancuso said of his victory in Virginia.
Mancuso has his sights set on making it to the Junior World Champs, but his long-term goals are to make it to the Olympics in 2020 or 2024. The national champion hopes one day to have pupils of his own.
“I want to be a master, I want to own my own taekwondo school. That’s what I really want to do. My heart’s in teaching.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall