Christopher Penna has been kicking and punching for nearly nine years.
At age 4, the Bothell resident began taking karate lessons for fun, but over time he became serious about his craft. He added to his total of 101 medals by earning two golds and one bronze at the recent national championships and United States team trials at the Broward County Convention and Trade Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Penna, who will enter eighth grade at Skyview Junior High in the fall, said he put his all into training for and competing at nationals.
“It was challenging — the people across the country that I had to compete against. They pushed me to work harder,” said the 13-year-old. “I was pretty nervous, but I had been preparing for (nationals) for the last seven months. I trained every single day: three hours on Saturday and two hours six days a week.”
Sensei Chuck Sweigart — a fifth-degree black belt and three-time national champion — trained Penna for nationals at Washington Karate Association sessions in Bellevue and Lakewood.
“This result is very impressive. To compete against the best in the USA and to have won two gold medals is a great accomplishment,” Sweigart said of Penna’s first trip to nationals.
Penna took home golds in kata (forms) and kumite (fighting) in the boys advanced 13-year-old division and a bronze in 50 kg team-trial kumite in the boys 12-13-year-old division. The nationals event, which featured more than 3,000 competitors, was sanctioned by USA Karate under the auspices of the USA Olympic Committee.
Jerry Penna said he also gets nervous watching his son perform, but notes that Christopher is a solid, consistent, powerful and quick competitor.
“He seldom fails to amaze me,” Jerry said. “I was near tears when he won both kata and kumite this year. I was so impressed by his confidence and ability to win. It’s really rare that anyone excels in both categories as he does.”
Christopher has garnered 63 gold medals in his career, including four at US Open events at three at Junior Olympics events. The karate kid said he’d like to make the Junior National team next year and later compete in the Olympics if karate is approved for the 2020 games.
Next up on his docket is some junior football action with the Bothell Cougars program, he said. He’s excited to jump into his running-back role this fall, and Jerry feels in a few years his son could be making an impact on the varsity squad in front of a throng of fans at Pop Keeney Stadium.