August 12, 2008
by Scott Thien

On paper, it doesn’t seem like a fair fight: a teenager against an adult.

But at 19, fourth-degree taekwondo black belt Jeremy Raymer says his age could be the advantage he needs to secure a spot on the sport’s national team roster.

Earlier this month, Raymer and second-degree black belt Melvin Harris, 18, both Indianapolis, took bronze medals at an Iowa qualifier, advancing them to the 2008 U.S. Senior Nationals and Junior Olympics Taekwondo Championships July 1-6 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Raymer is making his sixth trip to nationals, but this will be the first time the middleweight will be required to compete in the 18-32 adult or seniors division.

“I’m not as weathered or experienced as some guy who’s been to (senior) nationals five or six times, but I bring my speed, strength and youth,” the Ivy Tech business student said. “I’ve been competing in the adult division since I was 15, so I know how some of these guys fight.”

The standouts from Korea Taekwondo Academy, on East 82nd Street, are among six Central Indiana competitors who so far have qualified for the national tournaments. Three athletes from Indy Taekwondo Academy in Carmel qualified, too.

Raymer’s coach, KTA head instructor Garth Cooley, is optimistic about his student’s chances.

“Jeremy has an incredibly solid work ethic, and he is very directed,” said Cooley, a sixth-degree black belt and former national champion and world medalist in the Olympic sport. “He is in fantastic physical condition and will challenge any competitor he faces at the nationals.”

Raymer’s hardly new to the Korean martial art. Starting taekwondo at age 7 — a time when he “was big into the Power Rangers” TV show — the 2007 Lawrence North graduate since has competed in nearly a dozen states. His best finish: a bronze medal at the 2006 Junior Olympics in Atlanta, ranking him third among all junior U.S. heavyweights.

“My ultimate dream is to make it to the Olympics,” said Raymer, who eventually wants to study exercise science. “But my immediate goal for now is to make the national team.”

It’s not been an easy road. In 2005, Raymer dislocated his right knee cap, and he’s broken every finger since he started competing in 2002.

“You’re bound to have bumps and bruises,” he said of taekwondo, which scores with kicks to the head and torso. “But it’s no riskier than other (contact) sports because we teach you to move and avoid an attack. Personally, I think taekwondo is safer, because there’s more structure and rules, more than in football or wrestling.”

In Detroit, more than 300 black belts will battle for the top four spots in each division to make the national team, a pipeline to the Olympics. Raymer knows the competition is stiff but says his tournament strategy is always the same: Everything to gain and nothing to lose.

“Because I’m so young — and as long as I stay consistent with my training — I can only go up.”

Call Star reporter Scott Thien at (317) 444-6912.

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