Local martial artist wins second ATA sparring championship

Andrew Heiati, center, won his second sparring gold medal at the ATA World Championships.
Andrew Heiati, center, won his second sparring gold medal at the ATA World Championships.

Carmel Valley’s Andrew Heiati repeated as the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Sparring World Champion, winning back-to-back titles at the competition held in Little Rock, Ark. on July 12.

“I was dedicated and motivated because I wanted to win two years in a row,” said Andrew. “That’s pretty rare in sparring because the competition is unpredictable, you don’t know who you’re fighting.”

Andrew began doing taekwondo in kindergarten, as part of an after-school program. He began competing at age 10, taking his training more seriously at Church’s Martial Arts in Carmel Valley.

He qualified for this year’s ATA World Championships by racking up points winning tournaments throughout the season, including big wins at the Fall Nationals in Kissimmee, Fla. and the Southwest District Championships in Glendale, Ariz.

Andrew Heiati

In the finals at the world championships, he faced a competitor from Canada who had dominated most of the U.S. competition—he had never fought him before.

“I just stuck to my game,” Andrew said. “He was down 4-1 and really needed to make back points so he was coming at me really hard and I did a lot of counter moves.”

His winning move was a spinning back kick to the face, allowing him to put the gold medal around his neck once again.

“The glory is not there (on the podium). It’s thinking back to all the training and tough times you had before the competition, the blood, sweat and how hard you’ve worked to get there,” Andrew said. “It’s very satisfying to know that all the hard work I’ve done has paid off.”

Andrew, who graduated from High Bluff Academy this year, will attend San Diego State University this fall. As he is staying in San Diego, he will be able to train at his hometown studio with the same training partners and teammates.

Andrew credits High Bluff’s flexible scheduling that allowed him to train six days a week while getting a quality education that got him into the honors mechanical engineering program at SDSU.

The championship competition was Andrew’s last in the 15-17 age group and next year will be his first in the adult group, ages 18 to 29.

“My goal is to chase the title again and win it again in a tougher age group,” said Andrew.