AVENTURA, FLA. (WSVN) - - A South Florida teen is hoping her martial arts talents will take her all the way to international recognition at an Olympic-style event this summer.
She’s only 16 years old, but Aventura resident Emalie Belokon is getting ready to fight for the gold. The teen will represent Team USA in karate in the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel, a showcase for Jewish athletes from around the world.
Emalie’s parents, Inna and Eric Belokon, couldn’t be more proud. “We’re beyond proud. She’s very dedicated. I mean very, very dedicated,” said Inna.
Despite performing at such a high level, karate hasn’t been a part of Emalie’s life until just a few years ago. “I was picking up my brother after school, and I see him doing karate, and I see him fighting, and I said, ‘Whoa, that’s cool. I want to do it,'” she said. “I tried it out for a while, and automatically it clicked.”
As for her parents, seeing their teenage daughter take the mat for the first time was a little nerve-racking. “When I saw one of the tall girls, her opponent, punch her, I was going to like jump over and protect her,” said Inna. “That was mother’s instinct, but then it gets a little bit better.”
Emalie trains at the DB Karate School in Sunny Isles Beach, and that dedication to training goes beyond the studio. “She trains every day, and if it’s not at the dojo, at home,” said Eric.
The young athlete has competed locally and nationally, winning numerous medals and trophies, but taking the stage in front of the world is something she never imagined to happen so quickly. “I see people saying, ‘Oh, my God, you’re so great. Oh, my God, you’re doing so well,’ and I was thinking, ‘No, really?’ I didn’t believe it,” she said.
Emalie admitted that getting to this point has not come easy. “Without my parents, my sensei, without them and without people supporting me, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am right now,” she said.
And many sacrifices have been made by her and her family, but in the end, Emalie said, it’s all worth it. “I’m trying to be calm. At the same time, there are days where I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, a couple months away you’re going to Israel. You’re going try to represent the nation, be the best of the best,'” she said.
Win or lose, her father is already thinking about the next big thing. “2020 Japan Olympics?” said Eric.
Emalie has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to help with travel expenses. If you would like to make a donation, click here.
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