Carmel Valley’s Andrew Heiati wins third taekwondo sparring championship
Carmel Valley’s Andrew Heiati pulled off a three-peat at this year’s ATA World Taekwondo Championships in Phoenix. Heiati won his third sparring championship in a row, taking home the gold in his first time as a delegate in his new age group division of 18-29-year-old 4th and 5th-degree black belts.
“Everyone’s adults. The competition is a little bit harder,” said Heiati, 20.
As the newcomer to the division, all eyes were on him to see how he would stack up. He was seeded low in the seventh spot and in his second fight was matched up against the #1 seed, the defending champion. Heiati beat him 5-0.
“It was crazy to me. After I won that fight it was a motivating boost,” he said. “I wanted to take it all.”
In the championship fight, he got down early 2-0. After scoring a point he again fell back 3-1. Heiati came back from the deficit to win 5-3 with a headshot round kick over the shoulder, “I closed the gap and flicked it to his head and won,” Heiati said.
A graduate of High Bluff Academy in Carmel Valley, Heiati is starting his third year at San Diego State University as an honors mechanical engineering student. In addition to taekwondo, Heiati also loves to fish. This summer he had an internship at Accurate Fishing in Irvine making salt water fishing reels, a great opportunity for him to combine one of his passions with his engineering studies.
He continues to train at Carmel Valley’s Church’s Martial Arts, where he has been since he was 10 years old.
“The kids train hard and we’re under the right staff. When you put two and two together, you make champions,” he said of Church’s studio bringing home several titles in addition to his from the tournament.
Like all athletes, the pandemic year was tough but he was able to maintain his training, starting outside and moving indoors following the strict protocols—no one got sick. He said he was lucky to find sparring partners, which he thinks made a difference in his latest championship run.
He plans to keep up his training even as his college courses may get tougher this year: “I want to go for four.”
“I will always find time to fight because it keeps me healthy and gets my mind straight,” he said. “It will always be a part of me, I don’t think I will ever stop.”
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