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Laurie Lai Helps Taekwondo to Two First Place Finishes

By Jackson M. Reynolds, Contributing Writer

In its first two competitions of the season, the Harvard Taekwondo (HTKD) has placed first in its division, allowing it to currently stand atop Division III of the Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference (ECTC).

With 18 members in its core competitor group that range from novice white belts to veteran black belts, the club participates in both poomsae and sparring events throughout New England. But HTKD’s recent success is primarily built upon the strength of its poomsae squad.

Third year law student Laurie Lai leads the Crimson in competition and instruction. Lai previously finished third at the 2014 U.S. National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships in Team Poomsae and also made it to the semifinals in the individual portion of the event. Lai’s finish was the best poomsae result posted by a member of HTKD in its history.

In its first tournament of the season at MIT, Harvard put forth a 98-point effort. While fighting in the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) style, HTKD entrants competed in bouts against students of member schools from all classes and divisions of the ECTC. The team finished 7th in the 23 school field.

The Crimson posted consistent performances across the board en-route to scoring 51 points more than the next highest divisional finisher, Penn, and also besting three Division II schools as well.

Lai placed second in a stacked Women’s Black Belt Poomsae field, while sophomore Thomas Lively and junior co-president Kayi Okine both brought home a gold medal in their respective poomsae events. Junior Noemí Urquiza, who placed 2nd in featherweight blue/green belt sparring at Collegiate Championships last spring, earned bronze in Women’s Blue Belt Poomsae.

This past Sunday, HTKD travelled 12 members to Ithaca, N.Y. to compete in the Cornell tournament where Harvard again finished first in Division III.

Lai won gold this time around, while sophomore Aisha Suara placed second in the Women’s Yellow Belt Poomsae. Urquiza and fellow junior Jeffrey Ling both earned bronze in the blue belt poomsae category.

Based on its performances this year, HTKD has grown past its self-described lackluster performance over the last half-decade by developing a culture of commitment and accountability throughout the squad.

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