Summerville student takes bronze at U.S. Open
Nik Poland from Ray Smith’s Tae Kwon Do won a bronze medal Feb. 22 at the 2014 U.S. Open tournament in Las Vegas.
Poland performed before a rousing crowd of some 2,100 guests at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino’s Paradise Hall. Since the U.S. Open is designated a World Tae Kwon Do Federation G2 event, he earned World Ranking points to be added to his Global Athlete License.
The event played host to 1,922 competitors from 62 countries. Split almost evenly, 986 of the competitors are from the United States, while the remaining 936 are from other countries.
Poland beat Shih En Chiu of Taiwan and Gerardo Vazques Bonilla of Puerto Rico to take the bronze medal for his division.
His medal helped the U.S. close out the junior competition in style and with 28 medals overall- four gold, seven silver and 17 bronze to win the medal count. Mexico finished second with 18 medals, while Taiwan earned 13.
Poland was coached by his father, Michael Poland.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my son,” the father said. “He just made the U.S. National Team last month and the U.S. Open is the largest global event for Tae Kwon Do except for the Olympic Games. My son is working his way up on that list.
“We haven’t even scratched the surface of how good he can become.”
Poland, 16, also competed in the adult division (18-32) and defeated three-time U.S. Open champion Hiroki Yamashita of Japan before losing to Russia’s Said Ustaev.
“I concur with what Mr. Poland said and that thought is truly scary,” Grand Master Ray Smith said. “Nik has won the South Carolina State Championship, Governor’s Cup, Southeast Regional, Tae Kwon Do Festival, U.S. Cup, U.S. Cup Team Trials, Goodwill Games, U.S. National Team Trials, Winter Battle and now Bronze at the U.S. Open. He has already received recognition from Governor Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator Tim Scott, Congressman Mark Sanford and South Carolina State Senator Sean Bennett. It is really nice to see a young man recognized for doing something so remarkable.
“I would like to add he is doing all this while maintaining excellent grades at Summerville High School and working part time. Channel 4 News recently did a piece on him calling him a High School Hero. That is exactly what he is, a hero. He is a role model to us all.”
The bronze medalist said his journey to Las Vegas wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his family and others.
“I would like to say thanks to my Mom,” Poland said. “She has shuttled me to Tae Kwon Do class four to five times a week since I was 5 years old. I have had a lot of help and I need a lot more for this to continue. She has encouraged me every step of the way. This one’s for you, Mom.”