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Karate: Hicks is a teenage prodigy on and off the mat
Kiel Hicks is a true Renaissance Man, despite being a 14-year-old boy.
The Thomas Jefferson High School freshman is a multi-time United States champion in karate, an accomplished pianist and a nationally-recognized math student.
Hicks can now add a trip to the other side of the world to his ever-growing list of diverse achievements. Federal Way’s karate kid recently travelled to Malaka, Malaysia, to represent the United States at the 2011 World Junior Karate Championships. Hicks joined 1,200 athletes from 81 countries during the world championships Oct. 13-16.
Hicks brought home a silver medal after finishing second in the male cadet kata division. In karate, kata is a word that describes detailed patterns of movements practiced in solo. Kata are executed as a specified series of a variety of moves, with stepping and turning. The athlete is told to visualize the enemy attacks and their responses.
“It was pretty cool,” Hicks said.
During the world championships in Malaysia, Hicks rolled through several preliminary rounds and into the semifinals in the kata division. During the semifinal round, Hicks received unanimous votes from all the judges to earn the coveted spot in the finals. In the championship round, Hicks was beaten by a Japanese athlete, giving him the silver medal.
In total, Hicks and the rest of Team USA took home four medals at the 2011 World Junior Karate Championships, including two silver and two bronzes in 31 events.
“The plane ride was like 17 hours,” said Hicks, who was joined in Malaysia by his mother, Agnes. “We flew to Hong Kong, which was 13 hours and then four hours from Hong Kong to Malaysia. We were there for two weeks. It was really different, but cool.”
Hicks earned the trip to the Malaysia to compete at the world championships by winning the United States championship earlier this year in the elite male cadet kata (forms).
The USA Karate National Championships and Team Trials were held in Arlington, Texas, in July. Hicks participated in four divisions, including two kata divisions and two kumite (fighting) divisions. In total, Hicks came home with two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
This was Hicks’ third year as a member of Team USA and has competed in the 2009 and 2010 Junior Pan American Karate Championships in El Salvador and Quebec. This was his first year of eligibility to compete in the world championships.
“I’ve been doing karate for six years now,” said Hicks, who is a junior black belt because you can’t receive a full black belt until you are 16 years old. “Just one day my dad said I should starting doing something and I had thought about doing karate. I like everything about karate. I like the traveling and the conditioning.”
During the karate “offseason,” Hicks trains an hour a day, three days a week. But while preparing for big tournaments, that changes to eight hours a day, four days a week during the summer months.
But karate isn’t Hicks’ only interest — far from it. The TJ freshman is pretty much great at everything he touches.
To illustrate the versatility of Hicks, he held his own benefit solo piano concert to raise funds for this trip to Malaysia.
“I’ve been doing the piano for eight years now,” Hicks said. “I just heard the piano being played a couple times and really liked it. It’s pretty relaxing.”
Hicks also participated in the 2010-11 Valley Regional Solo and Ensemble Contest at the high-school level in piano as an eighth-grader at Totem Middle School and received a Superior rating — the highest given out. Hicks also plays the drums and is currently a member of Thomas Jefferson’s drum line, as well as the ukelele and the guitar.
In terms of academics, Hicks was nominated by Totem Middle School’s Kate Gibson for the United States Achievement Academy for Math Excellence. This award resulted in Hicks’ selection as one of the Academy’s All-American scholars. His biography will appear in the 2010-11 USAA Yearbook, which is set to be published in mid-December, according to his mother, Agnes.
Hicks is also set to turn out for the Thomas Jefferson wrestling team next month and is looking to occupy the Raiders’ 103-pound slot. Last year, at Totem, Hicks finished in second place in the district.