COLONIE — Jamie Lam is one step closer to competing on the world stage.
The 17-year-old Colonie resident qualified for the Amateur Athletic Union’s USA Taekwondo team trials by placing third in her age group and weight class at the AAU National Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earlier this month. The top four black belts in each age group and weight class earn a berth to the team trials.
Lam, who trains at Guilderland’s Pil Sung Taekwondo, said making the national team has been a goal of hers for a while.
“Nationals is a first step towards the team trials,” said Lam, who will be a senior at Colonie Central High School in the fall. “Now, I’ve got to work harder to reach my next goal.”
Lam has been involved in taekwondo — a Korean martial art — since she was five years old. Her teacher, Joe Hasan, said he knew she could be one of the best in the country, even when she started.
“She was one of the kids who would be focused and ready to learn every time,” said Hasan.
Lam was such a quick learner that within five years of starting taekwondo lessons, she was helping teach lessons. She now teaches the Little Dragons class for 4-6 year olds at Pil Sung.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment when they achieve their goals,” said Lam.
Lam had performed well at previous AAU tournaments around the eastern half of the United States, but this was the first year she could compete for a spot in the national team trials, since she graduated to black belt status in the past 12 months.
“When she puts her mind to something, she accomplishes it,” said Lam’s father, Gary.
To make the national team, Lam must win a round robin tournament against the three competitors that rounded out the top four of the weight class in her age group — Brooklynn Guthery of Texas, Wiley Simard of Vermont and Annelisse Velazquez of Puerto Rico.
“Because she’s seen all of them before, I think she’s got a good idea of what she has to do to compete,” said Hasan.
Lam said her top priority at the team trials is managing her nerves. “I’ve just got to learn to keep my emotions in check,” she said.
Lam’s father said he might be as nervous as she is when he watches her from the stands.
“I think I’m more nervous for her than anything,” said Gary. “It’s always fun watching her in competition, but nervous at the same time.”
The AAU national team trials are set for Sept. 9-11.