By Kristelle Bechayda | Photos from Donnie Geisler Taekwondo

Six young Filipino athletes have made the country proud with their win at the 26th International Taekwondo Festival (ITF) which was held in Los Angeles, California last month.

Philip Jeremy Wee, 7, Steven Chu, 7, Ian Maximus Alapag, 6, Francesca Macayla Geisler, 9, Renzo Lao, 11, and Claudia Ysabel Juat, 17, of Donnie Geisler Taekwondo each brought home medals after competing in the sparring and poomsae categories.

Preparing for the competition

In a phone interview with Moms and Babies, coach Donnie Geisler shared he started training his students six months before the competition to fully prepare them.

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Coach Donnie Geisler’s team is composed of Philip Jeremy Wee, Steven Chu, Ian Maxiums Alapag, Renzo Lao, Claudia Ysabel Juat, and his daughter Francesca Macayla.

“We gave them a team training. Since the kids’ schedules were a bit busy because of school, we trained siguro at least 3 to 4 times a week. Sometimes, if we felt that the kids needed more improvement, we had private lessons for them. So we go to their houses at their convenient time and we train the kids,” he explained of their training routine.

Balancing their academics with taekwondo training might not have been easy, but the young athletes had been looking forward to joining the competition.

“The kids were eager and excited. We mold them to really focus on those events and to achieve in winning for their school and of course, their country. So they’re always motivated,” coach Donnie added.

Bagging seven gold medals and five silvers

The training continued when the young athletes were already in the U.S. a few days before the competition- with coach Donnie in the mornings and with the other competitors in the afternoons. All throughout, the young athletes didn’t feel any nervous jitters!

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In the U.S., coach Donnie continues training with his team every morning.

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The afternoons are spent cross-training with candidates from the other schools. The team takes a picture with Master Steve Han, who is one of the facilitators.

“Since day one when we arrived, very excited sila. They had no nervous feelings, so they were really excited to compete,” shared the proud coach.

The competition listed more than a thousand participants from eight countries, with Donnie Geisler Taekwondo being the only Philippine team who competed.

Between the six of them, they were able to bring home seven gold medals and five silvers. Coach Donnie describes their victory as his training school’s best win since it started joining ITF in 2015.

“For me, it was a great accomplishment,” the proud coach said.

An unforgettable experience

As for the students, they were just as ecstatic with their victory. “Their reactions? Ay talagang it was priceless. All the kids were jumping and enjoying after their win. It was really an experience that will be unforgettable for both students and the parents, who are one of the most involved people in this,” coach Donnie recalled.

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The young athletes with their parents.

Winning in an international competition might have already been a good enough achievement, but it made Philip, Steven, Ian, Francesca, Renzo, and Claudia even more determined to become better athletes.

When asked on how his students have been since they got back from the U.S., coach Donnie observed they are more driven in their training, “The best part of these kids joining the ITF is they come home and they wanna be better, they wanna accomplish [more], which is really good.”

“Their love for the sports really goes. Part of my program is really molding the kids to have the Olympic values. For them, they really want to be an Olympian and to represent the country,” he said.

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