Gold aspirations

Maple Grove teen makes U.S. Olympic Youth Team 

Zach Budde of Maple Grove is setting his sights high and aiming for gold. He has made the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Team in taekwondo. He has battled his way through U.S. competitors and now is ready to hopefully face the world of taekwondo competitors.

Suzanne Budde, Zach’s mom, said he has worked his way up and kept his eye on the Youth Olypmics, which is for non-professional athletes ages 16 and 17. This is Zach’s last opportunity to make it to the Youth Olympic Games. After this, Zach will be competing in the senior world.

“He has been on six U.S. teams in the last five years,” she said. “The first team he was on at 13 years old.”

Zach, a World Taekwondo Academy athlete, competed in Colorado Jan. 10 to 14 in the Youth Olympic Team Trial. He participated in four sparring matches. As the undefeated champion he earned his spot as USA’s Youth Olympic Light/Welter-weight (55-63kg) Team Member.

Budde said Zach had to face athletes from across the country. Competing in this combined weight division he was one of the lightest athletes. Not only was he the lightest, he was one of two athletes from World Taekwondo Academy. Zach had to face his teammate as well athletes with upwards of 10 pounds on him, winning all his matches including beating his teammate twice to secure the Olympic team spot.

As a U.S. Youth Olympic Team Member Budde now had to make the choice to compete for a spot on the 2014 Junior World Team, a spot he held just two years ago. Budde said once again Zach and his teammate found themselves in the finals that weekend in January, but this time both were undefeated in the first and second spots. Zach bowed out to his teammate securing his spot as the alternate for the 2014 Junior World Team as well.

Maple Grove resident Zach Budde has made the U.S. Youth Olympic Team for taekwondo. He will be competing in qualifying rounds in March 20 to hopefully claim a spot to attend the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China in August.
Maple Grove resident Zach Budde has made the U.S. Youth Olympic Team for taekwondo. He will be competing in qualifying rounds in March 20 to hopefully claim a spot to attend the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China in August.

“Zach knew no one could take away his Youth Olympic Team spot,” she said. “He also knew first-hand how few U.S. Team Spots there are for Taekwondo Athletes. There is only one athlete per recognized weight division, per event in our country.”

The U.S. Youth Olympic Team will be sending one boy and girl athlete from each of the three weight divisions, for a total six.

Budde added, “Never has that happened in Minnesota that two athletes from the same school take first and second for both the Youth Olympic team and Junior Worlds team.”

The Youth Olympics has a similar format to the Olympic games, with either a winter or summer Olympics alternating every two years. The first summer games were in August 2010 and the first winter version took place in January 2012.

The upcoming 2014 Youth Olympic Games will take place in August in Nanjing, China.

First Zach must qualify to head to the Olympics. He will head to Taipei City, Chinese Taipei on March 20 and 21 along with the five other youth team members. There are only a total of three U.S. spots at the Youth Olympic Games in taekwondo.

Taekwondo is not about fighting Budde said. “It’s a game of sparring with tags,” she said. “The person with the most tags wins. These kids are having fun, using their skills to win. It is truly about self control.”

It is a Korea martial art that combines combat and self-defense techniques in sport and exercise. Taekwondo involves different aspects: demo team, poomsae and spars.

Budde said there is no professional taekwondo team, but there is a possibility for Zach to make the Olympic team in the future. “It takes a minimum of four years for an athlete to make the senior Olympic level,” she said. “There is still more time for him. Most male Olympians range in age from 24 to 26.”

Zach is a junior at Osseo Senior High School. He is now a third degree Black Belt and started taekwondo in first grade and has never looked back. He has trained with Grandmaster Eui Yong Lee at World Taekwondo Academy in Maple Grove for the past 11 years. “He has loved taekwondo since the beginning,” she said.

Budde said World Taekwondo Academy has been recognized as USA’s Number One Taekwondo Club. Grandmaster Byung Yul Lee, was recognized posthumously, receiving the Life Time Achievement Award while Grandmaster Eui Yong Lee received the 2011 Coach of the Year award.

“Surrounded by such great martial artists Zach has trained not only to be a champion in taekwondo but to be a great young man in life,” she said.

Grandmaster Lee speaks as highly of Zach. “He is one of the most disciplined, hard working young man I know,” Lee said. “He is a great role model and great leader at our school.”

Zach also teaches classes two nights a week at World Taekwondo Academy, which Budde said is an extension of his family.

Budde said of Zach making the Youth Olympic Team, “It is a proud moment for him, his family and World Taekwondo Academy and Grandmaster Lee.”

She added the Osseo School District and Osseo Senior High have been very supportive. “Teachers do everything from getting his homework to him and giving him a timeline to complete it,” she said. “That helps. I hope others support a kid that’s driven. We have a saying, ‘Eat, sleep, homework, train, repeat.’ We joke about it.”

Some of Zach’s major competition results include taking golds, silver and bronze medals between 2006 to 2013.