Maria Andrade said she began martial arts training three years ago at the recommendation of Joe Pina, coach of the Cape Verde Olympic team and operator of Boston Taekwondo, which is located near the Abington-Weymouth town line on Route 18.
Posted Apr 21, 2016 at 2:28 PM
Updated Apr 21, 2016 at 2:29 PM
If all goes according to plan, Maria Andrade, 22, will return to Cape Verde in August with an Olympic gold medal after she competes in the taekwondo competition at the summer games in Rio de Janerio.
Andrade said she began martial arts training three years ago at the recommendation of Joe Pina, coach of the Cape Verde Olympic team and operator of Boston Taekwondo, which is located near the Abington-Weymouth town line on Route 18.
“Now I don’t want to stop,” Andrade said.
Pina, who has been coaching the Cape Verde Olympic team for 10 years, said he was training Andrade’s brother in taekwondo during a visit to his homeland three years ago and Maria came to watch a session.
“She came to watch and I said, let’s try some kicks,” Pina said.
Pina said Andrade kicked with ease and he believed she had potential to be a successful martial artist.
“Taekwondo came naturally for her,” Pina said. “When she kicked I said I want her to be a champion. She has a lot of advantages. She has natural ability and she is limber and flexible. She does not weigh much and is a little taller.”
Pina said he continued to train Andrade during visits to Cape Verde the past few years and realized she had potential to qualify for the Olympian team.
“I had two years to get her ready for the Olympics,” Pina said. “When I went to Cape Verde I saw her compete and I saw natural ability in her.”
Pina said Andrade’s ability to deliver kicks and punches with ease helped her qualify for the Cape Verde Olympic team when she achieved a second place finish in the African Qualification Tournament in February.
“She got a silver medal,” Pina said.
Pina said he has also been training Andrade’s teammate Sophia Reiss, 22, who won a bronze medal at the African Qualification Tournament.
Reiss said she has been practicing taekwondo for five years and hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I always wanted to be a martial artist,” Reiss said. “It is good for self-defense.”
Pina said Reiss might be able to qualify as a wild card participant at the upcoming Olympic games under a series of rules established by participating countries in the African Qualification Tournament.
Reiss and Andrade have been training together under Pina’s supervision at Boston Taekwondo during the past several months.
“I brought them here to give them the best possible training,” Pina said. “We train two to three times a day every day, including holidays to get them ready for the Olympics,” Pina said. “We will train two to three hours a day.”
Pina said each training session is the equivalent of a black belt qualification test.
“Ninety percent of martial art students could not do this type of training,” Pina said.
Pina said taekwondo has been an official Olympic sport since 2000.
“Taekwondo became an Olympic demonstration sport in 1988 during the Seoul games,” Pina said. “It was a demonstration sport again in 1992. It did not appear as a sport in the 1996 Olympics. It became an Olympic sport in 2000.”
Pina said taekwondo is a sport that people from ages 4 to 84 enjoy learning at Boston TaeKwondo on a weekly basis.
“We have about 240 students that are from Weymouth, Abington and Rockland,” Pina said. "Most of my students are from Weymouth.”
Pina said the popularity of martial arts in the United States took off with the release of the “Karate Kid” movies during the 1980’s.
“Before then, kids did not (generally) do martial arts,” Pina said. “Parents did not encourage it, but then they realized there was more to martial arts then kicking and punching."
Pina said his martial art journey began at age 12 when he started learning taekwondo while growing up in Cape Verde.
“I’ve also studied karate, Krav Maga, (an Israeli martial art) and Muy Thai,” Pina said.
Pina has an 8th degree black belt in taekwondo and a fourth-degree black belt in karate, according to Boston Tae Kwondo’s website bostonkickboxing.com
Pina said although only a select group of taekwondo students can be on a competition team, the martial art can be enjoyed by people of all ages and ability levels.
“Martial arts is all about your effort,” Pina said. “It is about where you are as a person.”
Follow Ed Baker on Twitter @EdBakerWeymouth.