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Taekwondo standout Liu eyes 2020 Olympic Games

Since discovering the sport soon after learning to walk, Josh Liu has worked himself into an upper-echelon taekwondo artist with medals from national and international competitions.—Courtesy Photo
Josh Liu has traveled far and wide to hone his craft. He's boarded flights to British Columbia, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica and Oregon, usually in quest of a medal, usually successful.

The Ashburn teenager believes he still has a long way to go in his travels.

Liu, a 17-year-old Rock Ridge High School junior, is a high-level taekwondo competitor, combining the hallowed skill of the ancient martial art with a young, hungry athlete's ferocity.

Since finding the sport at age 5, Liu has accumulated a handful of gold medals from U.S. Opens and U.S. Junior Olympics, his first coming at age 13.

At age 14, Liu captured bronze at the Cadet World Championships in Azerbaijan. As a 15-year-old, he won silver in the Pan Am Games. Last year, Liu was the sole American to earn a medal when he brought the bronze back from the Junior World Championships in Canada.

Later in March, Liu will board another plane to another destination for another competition, this time the USA Taekwondo Senior National team trials in Fort Worth, Texas, seeking to earn the team's top spot.

To get it, all Liu needs to do is "take out a former bronze medalist Olympian, Terrence Jennings, and beat a new Senior National team member," he said.

He's already piled up medals of gold, silver and bronze, winning acclaim both nationally and internationally. Now the high schooler is setting sights on Tokyo.

"Gets all my energy out"

Josh was a three-year-old, toddling around in his car seat, when he saw his older brother Christian taking part in some fundamental taekwondo exercises. Josh's young brain picked up on what he saw.

"She saw me acting out the motions," said Liu of his mother, Rohina. "So she figured, 'I guess we better start him too.'"

Liu wasn't very good, at first. There was a lot of hard work involved in this new sport. He stuck with it because, he admitted, "It gets all my energy out."

Over the years, Liu has cultivated a fighting style relying on aggressive strikes, going after opponents anywhere on the mat.

"I'm very offensive," he declared. "Some people like to stay back, but I like to go out and get my points, be a little flashy and do whatever I can."

Points are awarded for successful strikes to the opponent's body, with more points awarded for shots to the head.

"I want to show people that an aggressive style can be pretty, too," he added.

Last April, Liu and a couple teammates from the local dojo went to Costa Rica for intensive training. Liu, who speaks English, Dari, and no Spanish, found he could communicate through the language of taekwondo.

"We didn't speak the same language, but we didn't need to speak when we were training. We were just going 100 percent, every drill," he recalled happily. "Afterward we hung out at the mall, watched movies, and had a really fun time. Beautiful country and really intense training."

Liu enjoys the new places he gets to visit. He also relishes in winning some fights while he's there.

"I want to travel the world and get as many points as I can in the Senior division," he explained. "Then I can hopefully get a ticket to Tokyo for the 2020 Games."

As Liu is himself continuing to learn how to improve as a fighter, he also wants to display a more fun, more effective style of fighting. He thinks the next Olympic Games would be ideal to present his fighting style to a world stage.

"I just think that the Olympics is calling my name," he stated. "I want to come into this taekwondo and change the game, show everyone what I can do."

Josh Liu

-School: Rock Ridge
-Class: Junior
-Age: 17
-Sport: Taekwondo
-Since: Age 5
-Height: 6-foot-1
-Trains: US Tigers TKD, Haymarket; Phoenix TKD, Ashburn
-Accomplishments: US Open gold; US Junior Olympic gold; Cadet Worlds bronze
-Aspiration: Olympics

Josh Liu, left, wants to bring his aggressive style of fighting to the biggest stage in taekwondo.--Courtesy Photo


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