The U.S. won the poomsae mixed team freestyle competition Sunday at the Pan American Games to give Fullerton resident Alex Lee his second gold medal in two days in the discipline of the Korean martial art taekwondo.
In poomsae, an individual, pair or team compete without an opponent or sparring, instead flowing from position to position, strike to strike through choreographed routines judged by a panel of judges.
The U.S. received an average score of 7.240 from the judges for its pattern at the Callao Sports Center in Lima, Peru. Canada was second in the six-team competition with a score of 7.120. Puerto Rico was third with a score of 7.000.
The U.S. team also included two other athletes from Orange County — Andrew Lee of Fullerton, Alex Lee’s younger brother, and Ethan Sun of Tustin — and Karyn Real of Diamond Bar. The fifth member was Saejin Yi of Sacramento.
The victory came after Sun and Yi finished fourth in the mixed pairs final earlier Sunday.
The fourth-place finish in mixed pairs “was not the result we wanted, but we were able to reset our mentality and completely turned it around and fortunately turned it into gold,” said Alex Lee, will turn 20 on Aug. 5.
Real, 17, said she “never really imagined that something like this could happen to us, especially because Sejin and I just started freestyle literally this year.”
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.
Alex Lee won the gold medal in the men’s individual competition and Real the bronze medal in the women’s competition Saturday.
Lee received an average score of 7.660 for his two patterns. 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.
“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 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
Real averaged a score of 7.510. Paula Fregoso of Mexico won the gold medal with a score of 7.660 and Marcella Castillo 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, who graduated from Diamond Bar High School in May and will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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