She concentrated on her breath.
In and out.
The familiar mat moved beneath her feet. Or maybe her feet were moving. She could no longer tell.
A flurry movement occurred in perfect synchronization and all that was left as a result was a slight hitch in her heartbeat. A practiced fluidity controlled her body.
Her mind sharpened into a pin that was pointing at nothing and everything at once.
Sophomore Kassidy Mahoney perfectly executed the choreographed routine of karate forms in front of the audience and judges. She did not notice the other competitor on the same mat, silently performing her own routine in hopes of winning first place.
In and out.
Then it was over.
The applause seemed muted as Mahoney curtly bowed and stepped off the mat with her competitor, her baited breath quivering in her throat.
Someone’s voice boomed from the speakers and Mahoney kept a stone face. The competitor who came in second place was announced.
She felt a bubble of pride travel to her lips. A small smile peeked through as she stepped forward to accept her gold medal.
Mahoney trains with the Illinois Shotokan Karate Club, competing in kata, which is a choreographed routine of forms, and kumite, which is traditional sparring. She began karate nearly ten years ago, mainly engaging in the sport to gain confidence and learn self-defense.
However, karate quickly turned from a hobby into a passion. Mahoney trains everyday after school for almost two hours and has represented the United States in the Shotokan World Championships. In 2010, Mahoney competed in her first national championship and brought home the gold. She has competed as a national competitor every year since.
“The best part of doing karate isn’t getting the medals or anything like that,” said Mahoney. “It’s being able to say that I have asthma, a 39 degree abnormal curvature in my spine, and am currently dealing with a tear in a bicep ligament, yet I am still a successful contender.”
For Mahoney, who is determined to push through any pain, nothing is impossible.