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A Tae Kwon Do prodigy

VICTOR ENGUM of Detroit Lakes qualified for the National Tae Kwon Do Championships.

Even at the ripe old age of eight, Victor Engum knows Tae Kwon Do will be a life-long activity.

Engum is already making some serious strides in the sport, after qualifying for the National Tae Kwon Do Championships in each of sparring and patterns.

The eight-year-old from Detroit Lakes will be competing in the National sparring tournament, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., inside the Orange County Convention Center June 28 through July 4.

It is the first time in 15 years a local Tae Kwon Do competitor has made Nationals.

Engum has a very influential teacher/coach, as well, who has propelled his young career into a very successful one -- his father Jon, who runs Engum's Academy of Tae Kwon Do.

"I want to be like my dad," Victor said. "I am just good at Tae Kwon Do."

There isn't any argument from Jon, who has taught Victor the art of Tae Kwon Do from an early age.

"He's a natural," Jon said of his son's Tae Kwon Do ability. "Victor has been traveling with the team since he was born and after watching all his life, it comes instinctually for him.

"He lives and breathes it."

Victor has already earned his green belt, which is the fourth degree after white, orange and yellow (which is the order Engum's Academy goes by).

When Victor takes to the competitive field, he usually comes out on top.

He has ever only taken gold in patterns and usually a top placer in sparring.

That was apparent at the state tournament, where he beat his opponent in the eight-year-old green belt heavyweight division by a score of 10-6.

Victor was able to jump out to an early lead, which enabled him to fend off his opponent's attacks and seal the win.

His aggressive style benefits Victor for early leads.

"He is an aggressive fighter, he goes on the attack a lot," Jon included. "Confidence is a huge factor. In order to score, you have to take a chance, which in turn, gives your opponent an opportunity to score.

"It's like a chess match, you have to think two or three moves deep."

Victor's path at Nationals will have to be much longer than his one-bout state tournament.

His strategy will remain the same, though -- listen to dad.

"My dad shows me where to go and attack to get points," Victor said. "I just listen to him."

Engum's Academy has had competitors in the National Tournament -- which has up to 3,000 qualifiers total in all age groups -- since 1991.

He will have 20 fighters going down this year competing in the majority of age divisions in the combined belt groups of yellow, green, blue, red and black.

The sparring tournament is a single-elimination format, with competitors from around the nation.

Victor will have to survive 12 matches for a National Championship.

"Since he's been there with me, the stage fright aspect shouldn't be as big a factor," Jon said. "But intimidation can be a factor being in it the first time."

But Victor already has conquered the mental aspect of sparring.

He is already able to focus his attention and energy on his opponent, not on the surrounding distractions which can disturb some young fighters.

"When I'm sparring, everything just goes away," Victor said.

The young Tae Kwon Do prodigy is already on pace to earn his black belt in about 2.5 years, as well.

Having the dedication and skill to become a fast rising star in the sport of Tae Kwon Do has already put Victor on a path of success -- and a plan for the future, as well.

"Like he's told me before, he was born for Tae Kwon Do," Jon said. "Victor is already mentally mature and focused on it."

That in itself is impressive enough for an eight-year-old, as he heads into National competition for the first time.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.