La Jolla athlete of the week: back from break, Koji Lavinsky wins gold and bronze at World Karate Championships


For Koji Lavinsky, a junior at La Jolla High School, winning karate championships is a matter of heart and hard work.

At the end of September, 16-year-old Koji won two gold medals and a bronze medal at the World Karate Union of Karate-do Federations World Championships, where he represented the United States in Cluj-Napoca. , In Romania.

Koji was one of more than 1,300 athletes from 35 countries who competed in the championships.

“I feel great,” Koji said of the medals. “I didn’t think I was going to win, because I took a hiatus for two years and just got back to it.”

“I was exhausted,” he says. “I was just above karate.”

But then a few friends asked him to join their team for kata – patterns of choreographed and detailed movements or forms in the sport.

Koji, who has been practicing karate since the age of 4, said, “I love the competition and the adrenaline you get. And that’s what brought me back to karate after I quit.

He said he also “missed the win”.

Koji Lavinsky, a junior at La Jolla High School, wears all three medals he won at the world karate championships last month in Romania.

(Yenny Setiawidjaya Ho)

Once Koji resumed karate, in July he qualified for the United States Karate Federation’s National Junior Team for kata and kumite, which are bouts or bouts. He announced he would join the team for an upcoming training camp at the Colorado Olympic Training Center.

To prepare for the championships in Romania, Koji trained weekly in Irvine with sensei Chad Eagan at Eagan’s martial arts gymnasium, Jinen Kai.

Eagan, a 38-year-old martial arts veteran who has trained over 60 international champions in the 18 years since opening his dojo, said Koji “is incredibly talented.”

Eagan said he had watched Koji in previous competitions before the teenager started training with him in March and said Koji “is a very well rounded athlete.”

Eagan said most elite athletes will choose to focus on kata or kumite. “It is very rare to find an athlete who will excel in both at the international level,” he said. “[Koji] has the ability to excel internationally in both.

Koji, who also skateboarding, snowboarding and playing golf, is “very athletic,” said Eagan, although “I don’t want that to be confused with being a hard worker.”

Despite Koji’s long hiatus from the sport, “he made it through the workouts,” Eagan said. “He has a lot of determination, a lot of heart. … That’s really 90 percent of it.

Koji continues to travel weekly to train with Eagan in Irvine and has said one of his goals is to compete in the 2023 Pan American Games, held every four years before the Summer Olympics.

His collection of accomplishments in 2021 “makes me want to continue, makes me want to train more and compete more, to see where it takes me,” he said.

So far, Koji said, he hasn’t spoken much publicly about his karate prowess, as people often see the sport as “childish.” … People don’t really know what it is and they judge it too quickly.

He said he wanted people to know that karate “isn’t just a fight; there are different aspects and different events. … It’s hard.”

Koji said his favorite components are “respect [and] discipline. I love the fact that you can’t really go anywhere if you don’t spend a lot of your time and effort.

“If you don’t try to improve yourself all the time, nothing will happen,” he added. “You just have to look to the future. “

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features high school athletes from all sports (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We are not only looking for the stars of the competition, but also the student-athletes who lead by example in terms of teamwork, academic success and / or community involvement. Please send your nominations and a means of emailing them to editor Rob Vardon at [email protected] ??


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