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On top of the world: Larsen brings home six medals from WKC World Championships

Hudson’s Rayna Larsen, center, stands atop the awards podium after receiving her gold medal in the Korean division at the 2018 World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) World Championships in Dublin Oct. 27-Nov. 2. At left is silver medalist Valeria Garcia of Guatemala and at right is bronze medalist Brianna Alpaugh of Team USA. Photos courtesy of Bryant Larsen 1 / 3
Thirteen year-old Rayna Larsen of Hudson shows off the six medals she won at the 2018 World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) World Championships in Dublin Oct. 27-Nov. 2. 2 / 3
Hudson Middle School student Rayna Larsen has a world championship, nine national championships and multiple regional grand championships under her second-degree black belt. 3 / 3

Hudson eighth grader Rayna Larsen went to Ireland recently and struck gold.

And silver. And bronze.

Larsen represented Team USA at the 2018 World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) World Championships in Dublin Oct. 27-Nov. 2, where she won one gold medal, one silver medal and four bronze medals in the girls' 12-13 year-old division.

It's just the latest accomplishment for the 13 year-old Hudson Middle School student, a second degree black belt who has been training in karate for seven years and has won nine national championships and multiple regional grand championships.

Larsen has an easy explanation for why she's so good.

"Because I work really hard at it and I have good coaches," she said.

Larsen trains at Ultimate Martial Arts in Hudson as well as privately with coaches Savy Yue, Rommel Gargoles and Suzann Wancket-Yue.

After qualifying for the the 2017 WKC World Championships in Orlando Fla., Larsen set her sights on returning to the world stage this year by advancing through the Twin Cities Rumble back in February. She then moved on to the national qualifier in Detroit in June, where she won gold medals in the disciplines of Classical, Traditional Weapons, Creative Weapons, Hard Style and Korean, and a silver in Extreme to earn her spot on Team USA.

At the WKC World Championships in Dublin this fall, she earned a gold medal in Korean, a silver medal in creative weapons, and bronze medals in Classical, Traditional Weapons, Hard Style and Extreme.

Larsen said she likes Classical and Korean the best.

"I like being able to hit hard and it shows in those two divisions," she said.

Rayna's father, Bryant, said there's a common misconception that karate is all about fighting, but that's not the case.

"It's not about being able to beat people up but it's about discipline and focus and respect," he said. "The self defense is a great side effect, but mostly it's about focus and discipline and making friends."

And Rayna has succeeded in that as well.

"I've made a lot of friends," Rayna said. "And there's a lot of places I've gotten to go. It's cool."

Bryan Larsen said when Rayna first started karate, he and his wife Neda were hoping it would help her with things like focus, discipline and confidence. And it worked. Rayna is a straight-A student and gives instruction in karate at local schools as well as leading youth karate classes.

"I don't think she ever could have done that before," Bryant said.

Larsen is competing at another international event—the National Blackbelt League (NBL) Super Grands World Games—this month in New York and hopes to represent Team USA again at the 2019 WKC World Championships in Niagara Falls in November. She's also dreaming of maybe someday representing her country at the Olympics. Traditional karate will make its first appearance as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer games in Tokyo, although her dad pointed out she probably won't be old enough until the 2024 games in Paris.

"I'll just keep working really hard and trying my best," she said.

That seems to be working so far.

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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