BELLEVUE — Vienna Krumwiede took up swimming as a young girl, but didn’t like it much. The same with gymnastics and ballet.
But at age 4, Krumwiede tried karate. And just like that, she was hooked.
Even as a pre-schooler, “I loved it,” said Krumwiede, who lives in Everett. “I wanted to go every day. I was doing something that was more unique than what other people were doing.”
Twelve years later, the 16-year-old Krumwiede is one of the nation’s more promising young female karate athletes. A member of the United States junior national team for the last three years, she competed at the 2011 World and Cadet Championships in Melaka, Malaysia, and expects to compete in this year’s Junior Pan American Championships in Cancun, Mexico.
Earlier this month, Krumwiede won two gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2012 USA Open and 2012 Junior Olympics, two events contested the same weekend in Las Vegas.
“There are a lot of exceptional athletes out there,” said Sensei Junko Arai, her coach. “But there’s also the cream of the crop, and (Krumwiede) is right up there.”
Arai started working with Krumwiede in the last year, “but I’ve known here for years and I saw a determination in her eyes even when she was young. At a young age, she was very dedicated.
“Natural ability is one thing, and she has that,” added Arai, a third-degree black belt who is a karate instructor at Edmonds Community College. “But to be elite, to be a champion, it takes a lot more than just having some natural God-given talent. It also takes a strong-minded person, a very determined person, to get all the way to the top. And she is highly motivated.”
Krumwiede, a 4.0 student at Everett’s Archbishop Murphy High School who tutors younger kids in her spare time, started out by competing at the local level. She entered her first state and national tournaments when she was 7, and began competing internationally when she was 13.
She has a junior black belt, which she will have until she is 18, which is also when she can start competing for a place on the U.S. senior national team.
Krumwiede trains five days a week with Arai at the Washington Karate Association Bellevue Dojo, usually for 2-3 hours a day. Given the commute from her Everett home, her sport obviously requires a big time commitment and a good many sacrifices.
Such as sleep, Krumwiede admitted with a smile.
“I have to stay up late and do homework,” she said, “but I’m OK with it because I can see my goal ahead. I made a commitment years ago, and I just have to prioritize what I really want for myself and then make sacrifices.”
And the long-term goal, she said, “is to become a world champion.”
Karate competitions are comprised of kata, which is choreographed patterns of movements or forms, and kumite, which is sparring. Krumwiede is good at both, but prefers kumite because “it’s thrilling,” she said. “That’s the crucial moment when you’re actually in the fight.”
And this sweet, charming and very bright girl “has a fighter mentality,” according to Arai.
“She’s a smart fighter when she’s sparring,” her coach said. “Someone else might be bigger, longer and have other advantages, but Vienna has good strategy and I think that’s why she’s excelling.
“It’s not just that she’s good at kicking and punching. They’re all good at that level. But Vienna can read opponents well and she uses her brain.”
Krumwiede has the potential to be a world champion, Arai said, even though the path will surely become more challenging in the coming years.
“There’s nobody at the world championships who’s not good,” Arai pointed out. “But Vienna really comes up to a challenge. This drive and this (determination of) not letting anybody stop her, that’s going to be big in her favor.”
A world title is possible, Arai said, “if she continues with this level of motivation and dedication. She’s got the experience and the brains, so she has the ingredients to do it. And if she continues on this track, she has a very good chance.”