Day 3
Team USA opened up in spectacular fashion on the first day of sparring competition with thrilling fights
from finweights Kelsey Kitagawa (University of Hawai’i-Manoa) and Johnny Nguyen (Mesa Community
College) and featherweights Stepfon Westbrook (California State University of Northride) and Emilia
Morrow (Miami Dade College).
Both Kitagawa and Morrow fought with great passion and drive, but unfortunately they came up short
in their first rounds against Turkey and Chinese Taipei, respectively. Kitagawa scored the initial point and
kept her lead throughout the majority of the match. Turkey received both her points through warnings.
Kitagawa tied it up, but unfortunately fell one point shy of moving on to the next round. Morrow drew
a tough first round against eventual silver medalist from Chinese Taipei. She gave an extremely strong
effort, staying aggressive and throwing some hard cuts, but also fell short and did not advance to the
next round.
Westbrook had an uphill battle but lost to eventual silver medalist from Korea. The round was evenly
matched, with Korea slightly ahead near the close of the third round. Westbrook tied the match in the
final second, pushing the fight into overtime. After some exciting exchanges, Korea scored first. Despite
his loss, Westbrook’s reflection of his match is positive, “I gained a lot of confidence. Not only did I fight
on a world level, but I fought against a finalist from Korea.”
Nguyen emerged victorious in his first match against Japan. He took an early lead with a beautiful axe
kick and finished the round with a final result of 9-5. Next, Nguyen had an amazing comeback against
Thailand in the quarterfinals. Near the end of the second round, he was down 0-5. Within the last 30
seconds, Nguyen threw an impressive jump spinning hook to bring the score to 4-5. Nguyen increased
his lead with a solid back kick and eventually won the match with a final score of 10-8. He advanced
to the semifinals against Indonesia, ensuring the US our first medal of the tournament. Even though
Nguyen fought aggressively, Indonesia proved to be a formidable opponent, and he finished the evening
with a bronze medal. “It’s an honor to have been a part of this experience“ said Nguyen. “Having the
opportunity to wear the stars and stripes at medal ceremonies made the sacrifice, hard work, and
dedication all worth it.”
Day 4
Team USA had another exciting day with matches from welterweights Phillip Yun (University of the
Pacific) and Alex Cinque (Fordham University) and flyweights Haley Kong (Stanford University) and Tyler
Sawyer (Santa Clara University).
Cinque drew Australia first round. Despite taking an early lead, Australia fought back to tie up the score.
It was a riveting match with many exchanges, but Australia scored in the final seconds of the match,
preventing Cinque from advancing.
Kong drew eventual bronze medalist from Korea first round. She managed the match with great
composure the entire way through. No points were scored until the final round when Korea landed a
headshot in the last 30 seconds. Kong gave a strong effort but was unable to catch back up.
Sawyer drew a tough first round against a Chinese Taipei competitor who will be fighting at the
upcoming Olympic Games. Sawyer took an early lead, but Taipei evened the score in the second round.
The match stayed close with Sawyer showing great defense and nearly pulled away victorious but fell
short with a final score of 5-7.
Yun started the day off against Spain, controlling the match the entire way through. He scored
with various techniques, including a couple strong punches which have barely been scored at this
competition. He won 12-2 to advance to the quarterfinals against Turkey. Yun gave a valiant effort
against Turkey keeping the score close, but fell slightly short of advancing to the next round.
Day 5
Team USA had another great day with exhilarating matches from lightweights Nicole Palma (University
of Miami, Lake Worth, FL) and Thomas Rahimi (North Lake Community College) and heavyweights
Danielle Harrison (Johnson and Wales University) and Stephen Lambdin (Oklahoma City Community
Palma drew Korea in the first round. She had some great shots and gave her best, but Korea’s aggressive
tactics and strong defense prevented Palma from advancing to the next round.
Harrison drew Brazil in the first round. She had some amazing moments including a powerful cover
punch that wowed the crowd. Despite her determination, Brazil won the round.
Rahimi drew former World Champion from Iran in the first round. He started off strong with a quick cut
kick in the first few seconds of the match. Down a couple points in the third round, Rahimi came back
to push the match into overtime. In sudden death, Rahimi threw a strong cover punch which forced the
judges to convene, but it was not awarded. Rahimi sparred hard but eventually, Iran scored.
Lambdin started the day off against China, whom he fell to last year at the Universiade in Shenzhen,
China. The match stayed close and eventually went into overtime. Lambdin scored within the first five
seconds of sudden death, advancing him to the quarterfinal rounds against Russia. Russia had an early
lead with a headshot but Lambdin kept his composure looking for the right opportunity. “Even though
I was down early, if I stuck to our gameplay, I would be fine. I just needed to stay calm and wait for my
shots,” said Lambdin. Towards the end of the third round, Lamdbin tied the score with a fierce axe kick,
once again, pushing the match into overtime. There were some nail-biting exchanges, but Lambdin
pulled through with a solid body shot to advance him to the semi-finals against eventual gold medalist
Iran. Similarly to Russia, Iran started off strong and took an early lead with a headshot. Despite another
beautiful axe kick Lambdin scored towards the end of the third, Iran came away victorious with a final
score of 4-3. Reflecting on his matches, Lambdin noted, “I need to take more chances. Most of the
heavyweights couldn’t match my speed. I need to spend less time in my own head and just go for it.”
Lambdin earned a bronze medal and is the second person to medal on the US Team.
Day 6
The final day of sparring competition was another exciting day with matches from bantamweight Aziza
Chambers (Wright State University) and middleweight Kellie Fairbanks (Hillsdale Community College).
Chambers drew Korea and eventual gold medalist in the first match. She maintained an early lead in the
first round. She continued to fight aggressively, throwing some amazing headshots but unfortunately did
not land. Despite a strong effort by Chambers, Korea moved onto the next round.
Fairbanks drew Germany in the first round. She kept the score close but in the very beginning of the
third round, tragedy struck as Fairbanks completed tore her ACL as she landed an axe kick. Despite the
immense amount of pain, she continued to fight until Coach Brian Singer pulled her from the match to
protect her knee. She was rushed to the hospital immediately after. Fairbanks is in great spirits despite
the injury. She cannot wait to return to practice and get back into competition.
This concludes Team USA’s trip to the 12th World University Taekwondo Championships. Team USA
brings back two bronzes, new experiences, and a plethora of knowledge to bring forward into the