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July 30, 2014

Clovis 12-year-old, a taekwondo national champ, to get taste of Olympic training

Priscilla Ahra Jo is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and at age 12 already has plenty of accolades to show for it.

Standing 5 feet, 3 inches, weighing 105 pounds with a soft smile and raven black hair, Priscilla Ahra Jo is a typical 12-year-old girl.

She enjoys texting, social media and the boy band One Direction.

But there's something about her that isn't revealed in that small stature: She can kick butt.

Jo is a second-degree black-belt in taekwondo, has been training in the martial arts since she was 6 and has plenty of accolades to show for it.

Inside her family's Clovis home, Jo has stacks of badges, passes and trophies from tournaments near and far. She's competed in Korea and in September, Jo will travel to Mexico for another international tournament.

But it was three weeks ago in San Jose where Jo won her biggest match — winning gold at the USA Taekwondo National Championships in sparring in the girls cadet division (ages 12 to 14).

The gold earned her a spot as the youngest member on the U.S. Taekwondo team and starting Saturday she will be in Colorado Springs for a free week-long camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. (Jo also silvered in poomsae, the form competition of taekwondo, earning first alternate to the national team, and bronzed in team poomsae.)

The 2014 Futures Camp is put on by USA Taekwondo and open only to athletes who win gold at the national tournament.

"I'm really excited because I get to see other national champions," Jo said. "You get to see how they practice and you learn a lot by being with them."

Jo's also excited to see where Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps and 2012 taekwondo silver medalist Paige McPherson are sculpted, both physically and mentally.

"You get the feeling of how other Olympians trained and prepared," she said.

She trains two to three hours a day, Monday through Thursday and another 10 hours Friday through Sunday.

"She's exceptionally driven, to do what she does at her age," said Derrik Carter, Jo's master instructor at Sunnyside Taekwondo. "When she first came to us, she had potential that hadn't been tapped yet, and now she's realized that and it only makes her train harder."

It's all for her one goal:

"I want to be the best," she said. "I want to win Worlds and reach the Olympics, hopefully in 2020."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misnamed the master instructor at Sunnyside Taekwondo.

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