It was not long ago that Mariana Mangini took up Taekwondo.
The 16-year-old first gave it a try less than two years ago. Now she is taking part in competitions.Early last month she participated in the USAT nationals in Dallas, Texas. There she placed third in the country in the 14 to 17-year-olds division in breaking boards, earning a bronze medal.
“I’m really happy I placed, “ said Mangini, who will enter her junior year at Weston High in the fall. “Had I performed a little better I would’ve gotten gold.”
The nationals are considered the junior Olympics competition for Taekwondo. A gold medal would have earned her the opportunity to try out for the U.S. Olympic team, having met a few of its members at the nationals.
Mangini began learning Taekwondo a year and a half ago. She credits her mother, Lisa, for getting her interested in it.
“At first I was skeptical,” she said. “Then I absolutely loved it.”
Her first actual competition was last November at World Championship Taekwondo in Fairfield, where she also trains with Master Kwanjin Ha. She would end up winning the gold medal in forms in her age group and taking second place in breaking boards.
To get to the nationals she first had to qualify, however. Her performance at the State Open at the University of Bridgeport in March would do it. She placed third overall in her age group.
The field at the nationals would be larger, including 25 competitors. Using a variety of kicks, Mangini broke 12 one-half inch thick boards, including several on one attempt.
She continues to train three times a week and is getting for he next competition, which will be in November. Such will involve even more preparation as Master Kwanjin has stepped up her requirements. Ultimately she would like to go back to the nationals next year.
“I think I can make it again,” said Mangini. “Hopefully, I can get a gold.”