Alex Lee of Fullerton won the gold medal in men’s individual poomsae competition Saturday at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru while Karyn Real of Diamond Bar won the bronze medal in the women’s competition.
Poomsae is a discipline of the Korean martial art taekwondo where athletes compete as individuals, without an opponent or sparring, instead flowing from position to position, strike to strike through choreographed routines judged by a panel of judges.
Lee received an average score of 7.660 for his two patterns at Callao Sports Center. Hugo Del Castillo of Peru was second with a score of 7.490. Marco Arroyo of Mexico and Abbas Assadian Jr. of Canada received bronze medals.
The medal was the first for the U.S. at the 2019 Pan American Games, which began Wednesday. Saturday was the first day of medal events.
This was the first time poomsae was on the program for the Pan American Games, the quadrennial competition for athletes from the Western Hemisphere and the third-largest international multi-sport event in the world in the number of sports and competing athletes, behind the Olympic Games and the Asian Games.
“It’s just an incredible feeling,” Lee said. “To be able to win a gold medal for the first time ever in poomsae at a Pan American Games is amazing and I will honestly never forget this moment and this day.”
Poomsae has never been in the Olympic Games and is not on the program for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“People are starting to see the beauty of poomsae,” said Lee, a junior at Stanford University majoring in computer science. “My hope is that we can continue to introduce poomsae to as many people as possible.”
Lee, who will turn 20 on Aug. 5, started participating in taekwondo in 2004. He won the senior pairs national championship earlier this year and bronze medals at the 2016 World Poomsae Championships in the junior male individual and junior male team events. He was the first junior individual from the U.S. to receive a medal at the world championships
Lee and Real are scheduled to compete Sunday in the mixed team freestyle event.
Real averaged a score of 7.510. Paula Fregoso of Mexico won the gold medal with a score of 7.660 and Marcella Castilo of Peru the silver medal with a 7.530 score.
“Not exactly the color of the medal I wanted but I’m still proud of my performance,” said Real, a 17-year-old who graduated from Diamond Bar High School in May and will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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