Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Keiko Shin Karate students learn a few things in Vegas tournament

WESLEY CHAPEL — When Evan Thompson stepped onto the mat at the USA Open karate tournament, it was a surprise to everyone in the field.

Including himself.

The 11-year-old student from the Keiko Shin Karate Academy in Wesley Chapel flew out to Las Vegas for a weekend in April, when three of the world's most high profile karate tournaments were all under way. Thompson was registered in only one of them.

After an encouraging performance in the strict and traditional Ozawa Cup, Thompson's parents decided to register their son in the USA Open, a tournament that featured participants from 52 countries.

"After I didn't get anything in the Ozawa Cup, I was able to sign up for the USA Open, thankfully, because they take registrations right up until the event starts," Thompson said. "Everyone at the tournament was really good. It makes you realize how tough it is to win when you go to a competition like that. To be honest, I was really surprised I made it that far."

Having never been on a competitive stage of that magnitude, Thompson's performance was remarkable. Beating kids from Mexico and South America, Thompson reached the final where he faced an opponent from Venezuela. Thompson suffered a disappointing loss in that match, but delighted his coaches with how far he progressed.

"He knew that he wasn't supposed to be in that tournament but his parents stepped up and got him into it at the last second," Sensei Ernesto Fuentes said. "Of all the kids, Evan was the surprise. He had to step up in a tournament he didn't expect to be in and he made it all the way to the final. He has that ability to recognize the situation and rise to the occasion."

For Thompson and the eight teammates who competed in Las Vegas, the tournament was both a confidence booster and educational experience. The nine students from Keiko Shin returned with 22 medals.

"I feel confident that I can go up against anyone," 9-year-old Banton Gayle said. "The people from Australia and Russia were really good. But knowing that I can step in the ring and stand toe-to-toe with them makes me feel good."

For assistant coach William Serrano, it was an eye opener to see just how far reaching karate's influence is.

"It was amazing to me how far people came to be in this tournament," Serrano said. "I really enjoyed the interaction between countries. People were there from Uzbekistan, Serbia, all sorts of places. I ran into people from the town in Puerto Rico where I was born, it's really big. It amazes you how many people love karate."

For Fuentes, the satisfaction of his team's performance at such a prestigious event is priceless. Fuentes began his journey in 1997 when he obtained his instructor's license, and has built a brand that has developed into a reputable dojo. He hopes that the success in Las Vegas will translate into more medals in July, when the team travels to Arlington, Texas, in an attempt to make the American team that will compete in the Pan American Games in November.

"I'm lucky that we have great parents surrounding these kids that are willing to spend money on their kids traveling to all these tournaments and being supportive," Fuentes said. "People see our kids at the tournaments and they ask where we come from. Everyone else comes from Miami, New York, California, et cetera. We say Wesley Chapel and unanimously they all say, 'Where is that?' We've built a name for ourselves because word of mouth has gotten around that our kids train hard and put in the work to win."

>>fast facts

Traveling squad

The nine Keiko Shin contingent making the trip to Las Vegas were Banton Gayle, 9; Elvis Ramic, 16; Sapina Ramic, 12; Evan Thompson, 11; Benjamin Vasquez, 12; Brianna Vasquez, 12; Andrew Vo, 9; Derick Vo, 13; and assistant coach William Serrano, who also competed.

For information about Keiko Shin Karate Academy, visit or call (813) 994-9253.

Keiko Shin Karate students learn a few things in Vegas tournament 06/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 8:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cannon Fodder podcast: Considering Gerald McCoy's comments


    Greg Auman talks about Gerald McCoy's comments — both about fan criticism online and Donald Trump — in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Gerald McCoy, front, said Monday that he would love to have a conversation with any of the fans who take to social media to criticize him and his Bucs teammates. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Massive crocodile seen roaming the streets, and there was only 1 thing a cop could do


    Name one thing you really don't want to see around 4 a.m. walking around your neighborhood.

    Watch out for that croc.

    A crocodile was seen roaming a street in Miami-Dade.
  3. Pinellas County Sheriff's employee resigns under investigation related to domestic violence arrest


    LARGO — A civilian Pinellas County Sheriff's Office employee resigned Tuesday while under an internal investigation that began after he was arrested on domestic battery charges.

    Joshua Volz resigned Tuesday from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He had been under investigation after he was arrested for domestic battery, according to police. [Pinellas County Jail]
  4. Mom accused of burying guns after fatal teen shooting declines plea deal


    TAMPA — The Valrico mother accused of hiding the guns after her teenage son shot and killed another boy in their garage told a judge Tuesday that she wants a trial, not a plea deal.

    Heidi Quinn is accused of hiding two guns after her son, Cody, fatally shot 17-year-old Jayquon Johnson in their garage. She faces charges of tampering with evidence. Her son was not charged in Johnson's death because authorities ruled it self-defense. He does face related drug charges. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Stone says no coordination between Trump campaign and Russia

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone said Tuesday he's "aware of no evidence whatsoever" that Trump's campaign coordinated with Russians during the 2016 election.