Eric Chua wins gold for the kick of it


Photo courtesy of Omar Moreleda

Third degree black belt Eric Chua performs a front kick

Junior Eric Chua won his 18th gold medal for Taekwondo at the Pan American Junior Championship for Taekwondo in the Dominican Republic in April.
Chua won two gold medals for freestyle, where his team made their own performance of kicks and flips, and forms, which are a sequence of kicks and attacks emphasizing technique and power.
The Pan American Championship, the 11th tournament Chua has competed in, came just a month after he competed in the Pan Am Series II in Brazil.
Chua, who is a third degree black belt, competes with Team Elite USA and the Sacramento Taekwondo team at tournaments. In the Dominican Republic, Chua and Team USA competed against other Pan American countries including Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico.
Chua has been practicing Taekwondo since the age of seven, when he wanted to learn self defense. He first started Taekwondo training in Texas, but now he trains at the Sacramento Taekwondo Club after he was selected to be a part of their freestyle team to compete in tournaments.
Chua also competes in forms, a type of competition in Taekwondo where the competitor has to do a routine in which the score reflects accuracy, technique, and power.
Forms refer to a sequence of movements, kicks and punches, performed in order to stimulate a real fight against imaginary opponents, according to Akula Taekwondo.
“[Forms] are presented with speed, power, and light energy,” Chua explained. “The judges give you points [and] the highest score wins.”
Additionally, Chua participates in freestyle forms where a team can make their own form under five work requirements.
The forms that are permitted for a tournament are determined by the organizer, who gives a list of the forms allowed for each round. Depending on the number of participants, there can be preliminary rounds, semi-finals, or finals.
In the past, Chua had competed in sparring matches for Taekwondo but decided to pursue forms instead.
The day of a tournament, Chua has a ritual that includes waking up an hour and a half before the tournament starts, eating breakfast and going through a series of warm-ups.
“I would just warm up and stay warm, keep myself stretched out, and try to stay calm,” Chua said.
Determined to work harder, Chua spends three to seven hours each week practicing Taekwondo. Chua’s Taekwondo grandmaster, Kwangil Bae, said Chua can have fun with the rest of the team but can also be dedicated to Taekwondo.
“I often see [Chua] stay behind after class and continue to practice by himself for up to 30 minutes,” Bae said. “His quiet persistence and drive also [makes] me feel motivated and I have him to thank for that.”
Chua’s Taekwondo master, Barbara Brand, noted her student’s dedication to taekwondo.
“His focus, intensity and commitment to diligent practice over the course of many years has brought him great success,” Brand said.
Anthony Do, Chua’s Taekwondo teammate, has known him for two years and agrees with Brand that Chua is dedicated to the martial art.
“He takes initiative in his work and has a passion for Taekwondo,” Do said. “He is very determined toward his goals and is highly motivated to achieve them.”
Brand shared a memorable story of when Chua stepped in to fill in for an injured teammate.
“During the 2023 USA Taekwondo Grand Prix Final, [Chua] replaced an injured teammate, and instead of being nervous or unsure, he was calm and collected,” Brand said. “He synchronized with his four teammates during their freestyle routine and performed spectacularly.”
Chua finds motivation in his teammates and the world champions to work harder and continuously push himself to be the best version of himself.
He credits Taekwondo with teaching him important life skills.
“It’s funny because [Taekwondo] led me to become more patient, taught me how to persevere, and created the passion to never give up,” Chua said.
Chua’s dedication to Taekwondo shined through the pandemic. He adapted to the restrictions by setting up a training area in his garage and practicing online.
For tournaments, Chua had to either pre-record his performance and send it to judges where the results were live streamed or attend them on Zoom, where there were a lot of technical difficulties.
Chua prefers to compete in tournaments in person as opposed to online because in-person tournaments give him the adrenaline needed to compete.
In the future, Chua aims to continue practicing Taekwondo in college.
“Eric has shown many times that he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to so I can picture him doing anything he wants,” Bae said. “But as a Taekwondo competitor, I look forward to seeing him compete at the World Taekwondo Championships.”