NEW PORT RICHEY — Lorelei Chamberlain is one powerful 15-year-old.
As the River Ridge High School sophomore took to the mat Tuesday at Trinity Tae Kwon Do, she prepared for the Southwest Florida Classic, a tournament this weekend organized by master Toby Oliver of Fort Myers. Only six of the best schools in Florida have been invited, an opportunity for Chamberlain to showcase her signature power in the Korean martial art of self-defense.
"Her power is her biggest attribute," Trinity TKD master Rafael Rodriguez said. "When she spars with someone and they attack, only to get hit by one of her counters, they think before they attack again. It's a big strength for her on the mat."
Originally trained by her father, Chamberlain was known at tournaments as the girl without a coach. She made her start at competitions without anyone to argue her case with officials or give her instructions when she was on the mat. Then one day she fought one of Rodriguez's proteges and immediately wanted to train under the young dojang master.
"I saw that a lot of his students were winning and then I met him when I fought a girl who is now one of my friends," Chamberlain said. "I started talking to him and wanted him to be my coach. It's important to have one because you can't speak for yourself in these competitions. He pushes his students pretty hard sometimes, but it's great to have the support of this academy because it keeps me motivated."
She has gone on to become a state champion, national champion and Junior Olympic gold and bronze medalist in tae kwon do, the sport that has captivated her time and energy for the last five years, beginning in California. Eventually the family moved to Gainesville so her mother, Tanya, could attend the University of Florida. Last year, as Lorelei devoted herself to training at Trinity TKD, she and her father moved to New Port Richey to save themselves the drive.
Lorelei Chamberlain brings dedication to everything she does, maintaining a 4.3 weighted grade point average at school and also participating in Air Force Junior ROTC.
Now she has set her sights on a lofty goal. As a result of her success at the Junior Olympics in 2011, she hopes to make a run at the 2016 Olympic Games set for Rio de Janeiro and will visit the Olympic Training Center in Colorado next year to meet coaches and see the facility.
James Chamberlain, 46, has steadily helped her along the way. As a kid in California, he studied Hwa Rang Do, another Korean martial art, and used his knowledge of the sport and what makes a good dojang to hunt down the best options for his daughter.
"One thing master Rafael (Rodriguez) does that I really like is that he ends each session with meditation," James Chamberlain said. "I think this is by far the best traditional interpretation of tae kwon do that I've been able to find anywhere."
For Rodriguez, the importance of having students with goals like Lorelei Chamberlain's is important. After two years, they are still getting adjusted to one another when it comes to competition, but he already sees in her the potential to fulfill her dream.
"Lorelei is definitely capable of anything," Rodriguez said. "She's at every tournament we go to and is very open to trying anything I ask of her. She listens really well between rounds. We've still got some things to work on, but over the last year she has really come a long way. As a coach you want students that are committed like her because the training pays off, and I don't have to worry about her safety in the ring — she knows what to do."