Story by Pam Robinson. Photos submitted.
Cara Merrick, an agile 21-year-old Mount Vernon native, brought home gold recently from the World Karate Association, or WKA, Championship competition held September 21-29, in Orlando, Fla., right outside Universal Studios. Held annually, the WKA Championship draws athletes from a number of countries to compete in what might be considered the “Karate Olympics.”
A student of karate since she was 12 years old, Merrick competed with adults aged 18-34 years old in six divisions, five of her choice and one for which she was chosen. She performed well in the five divisions of her choice. She won the silver medal in point fighting, soft style (i.e., Chinese kung-fu) and Korean style (i.e., tae kwondo) and won the bronze in team forms, where partners must perform karate moves in perfect unison with one another.
In the end, however, she won the gold medal in the division for which she was chosen, team point fighting. As Merrick explains, she was one of three fighters chosen, based on the day’s scoring, to compete in the gold medal round.
“No one was really expecting me to do that well,” she comments.
The gold in team point fighting isn’t the first Merrick has earned. In 2007, her junior year in high school, she first won gold in Karlsruhe, Germany, in team forms. The next year, as a senior in high school, she traveled to Orlando, Fla., and won gold as an individual in Korean style, the highlight of her karate career.
“My goal was to come home with an individual gold medal, something other than a team thing. I wanted a gold for me, just myself,” she comments. “Out of elimination, they take the top four—two bronze positions, a silver and a gold. I was the higher of the two bronze, so I was technically in third place, and the other girl was in fourth. For finals, you go in reverse order, so I was the second girl to get into my form. It was just flawless. It was one of those moments when you do something, and it’s perfect the first time—no mess-ups, no mistakes. It was just one of those moments. It didn’t matter where I placed because that was the best form I had ever done in my life.”
The second place competitor then broke the rules with a kick above the head, and the first place competitor bobbled when she had to balance on one foot.
“As soon as she bobbled, I just freaked out because I knew I had just won. My mom gasped,” Merrick recalls. “Then, they posted the scores, and I was 9.9 all the way around, the highest score being 10. My mom was cheering and crying. She was just so excited.”
Indeed, Mom Kim Merrick acted just like an Olympic competitor’s mom. “It was a very emotional time for my mother,” Merrick states. “You think of the parents at the Olympics. They cry because they know their kids have worked so hard to achieve this one goal, and they finally get it.”
Merrick will graduate from Murray State University in May with a degree in middle school education, emphasizing math and science. She looks forward to the start of her teaching career, but still plans to keep karate in her life.
“As of right now, I’ve said this is my last year to compete in tournaments. I don’t want it to conflict with my first year of teaching,” she says. “Hopefully, though, I’ll get a job close to a karate school [where she can work out and offer lessons]. I just can’t live without it.”
Story by Pam Robinson. Photos submitted.
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