Eykon Cruz’s passion for taekwondo started when he was only 4 years old.
“Even though I was basically an infant I knew it would become my future,” he says.
A fourth-grader at Ross Elementary School, Eykon, 9, recalls his first match.
“I was a little bit scared and when it was over I told my dad I didn’t want to do it anymore,” he says.
His fear, however, proved something completely different.
Eykon, who was being trained by his father Leonardo Cruz and step-grandfather Antonio Rodriguez, soon began to show great progress. Both Cruz and Rodriguez were veterans of this Korean martial art.
Cruz knew that a move from their native Cuba to the United States would bring about better training opportunities for Eykon and a better quality of life for the entire family.
“In Cuba we couldn’t even afford the uniform. He still trained and won medals everywhere. The day before we left Cuba, Eykon won four gold medals in the Copa Playa,” says Cruz.
By the time they arrived here in 2016, Eykon was already a two-time Cuban champion in taekwondo. He now believes he has great potential in this sport discipline.
“I have to be careful of where I go and what I do, though, because I don’t want to get injured,” says Eykon.
“I love to go to the park and play with friends but I can only do it for limited time and make sure I don’t get hurt. And I cannot ride a bike, go roller-skating or swimming while I’m training for competitions because it gets me tired. I lose flexibility.”
Taekwondo has gained an international reputation, and stands among the official events in the Olympics. It is different from other Asian martial arts in that it emphasizes kicking techniques.
“He exercises every day, keeps a healthy diet and even reads food labels,” says his mother, Mayrelis Comas.
“I do it because I don’t want to exceed my weight classification for the competitions,” says Eykon.
Taking the necessary steps to make sure Eykon has a balanced lifestyle is a priority for his parents.
“Eykon is just like any other child. He loves to play and finds time to play, and he loves to eat,” says Cruz.
His daily routine includes a healthy breakfast of vegetables, fruits and proteins, going to school and playing the trumpet, among other things.
“At school I have perfect attendance and I love math,” says Eykon. “If I wasn’t doing taekwondo I would like to be a lawyer.”
Last year, Eykon won a bronze medal at the USA Taekwondo National Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We travel every weekend; practically live in the car,” says Comas.
Since arriving in the United States, Eykon has won 56 gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
Most recently, Eykon won two gold medals in his age category at Taekwondo Spar Wars in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
“We try to go and compete where the best competitors are so that not only is Eykon challenged but that he is also noticed,” says Cruz. “He goes physically and mentally prepared, concentrating on the victory but enjoying the sports he loves.”
However, there are always challenges to overcome, like the language barrier. Additionally, Eykon is trained and coached by his father and competes as an independent athlete.
“There is no funding, no sponsor. We pay for everything. It’s hard because when we go to competitions, he is not part of a team, there is no logo or the name of a training school on the back of his uniform, and he is represented by his parents who don’t speak a lot of English,” says Comas.
That doesn’t deter Eykon from giving it his all during competitions.
“I still get a little scared before the events but I stay focused on the fight and then I don’t feel nervous anymore,” says Eykon.
Meanwhile, he says he will continue to do well in school and train hard to fulfill his dream of competing in the U.S. Open Taekwondo Championships and eventually the Olympics.
“I know that I can do anything I want in my life. I just have to make an effort,[ he says.