Bothell woman heads to Serbia for World Taekwondo Championships
By TIM WATANABE
Kenmore Reporter Reporter
July 8, 2008 · Updated 12:14 PM
By day, Danielle Pelham of Bothell studies hard at Edmonds Community College, pursuing a degree in business.
Outside of school, however, she spends most of her free time in a much more rigorous activity, the Korean martial art of taekwondo. Characterized by its fast-paced, spar-like fights and high kicks, the sport has been an Olympic event since 2000 and is the most popular form of martial arts based on the number of practitioners.
A member of the collegiate national team last year, Pelham fought her way through the team trials and won her division, securing a spot onto the U.S. team traveling to Belgrade, Serbia — a small, landlocked republic in southeastern Europe — for the 10th annual World University Taekwondo Championships July 16-20. While this will represent the 23-year-old’s greatest athletic challenge of her young career, she has had loads of experience, as well as some success, fighting abroad.
“This is my fifth time going to what’s considered a world championship event,” Pelham said. “I got a bronze medal at the German Open and I also got bronze at the Collegiate World Championships when it was in Greece.”
In addition to Germany and Greece, she has competed in Paris, the Netherlands, Thailand and South Korea. Practicing the sport since she was 11, Pelham has attained the rank of fourth-degree black-belt, high enough to be certified a “master instructor” of taekwondo.
A family affair
Very rarely do coaches for a national team get the opportunity to work with their own athletes on a daily basis, but Pelham’s father, David, is a noteworthy exception. The full-time firefighter made the necessary sacrifices to take over Danielle’s team, open up a school in Tukwila — Velocity Taekwondo — and recently got the thrill of a lifetime when he was named one of the Team USA coaches going to the World Championships.
“I’ve been going to a lot of (international events) for a long time, and so they just felt like I deserved a shot to help coach the team,” said the elder Pelham. “My athletes have very good, national team-type records.”
In addition to Danielle, David gets to work one-on-one with Christian Valencia, a Seattle University student who will be fighting on Team USA, as well. But Pelham couldn’t be happier to finally get to coach his daughter at one of taekwondo’s most prestigious tournaments, after years of watching her work hard to improve herself and achieve as an athlete.
“Getting the opportunity to actually coach her at this level is a phenomenal opportunity,” Pelham said. “I’ve been with her at a lot of events, but when you’re sitting up in the stands watching, you don’t really have as much control. For the opportunity to coach her, I wouldn’t trade the past 10 years for (anything) — she’s worked her way up.”
Desire and discipline
Similar to the quandaries that athletes in sports such as boxing and wrestling face, taekwondo is a sport separated by weight-class divisions, which can cause problems for youngsters that may not know how to properly regulate their habits.
“You really have to have a lot of desire, a lot of discipline. It’s a weight-controlled event, so you have a lot of athletes that need to eat right otherwise they’re losing weight to make divisions and they’re really not as strong as they need to be,” David said. “That’s probably the most difficult thing, because they are young and it’s easy for them to say, ‘Let’s go to McDonald’s today.’”
A black-belt in taekwondo himself, the coach Pelham understands the importance of purposeful training for martial arts and encourages his students to work hard to stay in shape. Team Velocity trains five days a week, including at least two hours of actual taekwondo training, and members are encouraged to do extra work on their own time to prepare for the physical rigors of competition.
“Personally on my own, I do an hour to two hours each day cross training at someplace like 24-hour Fitness on the elliptical or the stationary bike,” Danielle said. “We also do a lot of training you’d see basketball or tennis players doing, the sports that really need fast footwork.
“We do a lot of really intensive circuit training for endurance.”
The younger Pelham credits her dad for helping her develop as an athlete, and in particular, working on the mental side of taekwondo in sports psychology training sessions.
“Having my dad as a coach is awesome,” she said.
Pelham has been competing actively since 1997 and has compiled an impressive resume — she’s been awarded the gold medal three times at the Collegiate Nationals and was also named the 2004 National Collegiate Taekwondo Association Female Athlete of the Year.
Going into the World University Taekwondo Championships, the flyweight-fighting powerhouse believes that she is ready, willing and able to take on some of the best in the world.
“This is definitely an event I plan to win,” Pelham said confidently. “I’ve been training hard lately at national and international events — I’ve been stomping on everybody, so I just plan to keep it going and win one for the U.S.”Contact Kenmore Reporter Reporter Tim Watanabe at email@example.com.