Franklin Regional’s Smith relishes silver-medal experience at Junior Pan American Championships
It came down to the last 20 seconds of the fight, but Jared Smith knew he wouldn’t be denied.
After fighting off a flurry of combinations from his opponent, Giraldo Castro Mateo, of Colombia, he landed a swift jab that scored him the victory and a shot at the gold medal in the Junior Pan American Championships in Rio De Janeiro. The tournament took place from Aug. 22-25.
Smith, 17, from Murrysville, and a Franklin Regional senior and member of the Pennsylvania Shotokan Karate Club in Levelgreen, earned a silver medal after coming up short in the gold medal bout against Taira Erick, from Brazil. He competed in the 16-17-year-old, Junior Kumite male, 76 kilogram (167 pounds) division.
“It was a rewarding to know that all my effort paid off to some extent,” Smith said about winning the silver medal. “Of course, there’s always the ability to do better and especially when you finished second. It’s frustrating to not get the gold that you worked for, for so many years. It’s still rewarding to be up there in the top of the world.”
Smith is now ranked No. 5 in the world in his division.
“It’s amazing,” Smith said of the ranking. “It’s amazing to be so concerned with all the things going on in my life, with school and just being a high school student, and being able to separate enough time to train and become the best. It sets the bar high for the rest of my karate career and my life. It makes me feel like I can do anything.”
Up next for Smith is a trip to the Senior Team USA trials that are held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in January. He will be the youngest athlete to ever compete at the trials.
Smith is coached by Dustin Baldis, the Chief Instructor of the Pennsylvania Shotokan Karate Club and a USA National coach.
“He’s an explosive fighter,” Baldis said. “He’s well-conditioned. He does speed and agility training. It’s not just about karate; it’s about developing yourself as an athlete. Like other sports, you have to have good conditioning and he’s very well fit. On top of his technical ability, it gives him the best opportunity for success.”
While it may not be feasible, qualifying for the Olympic Games in 2020 isn’t out of the question. The 2020 Olympics will be the debut for karate. The goal for Smith is to qualify for the Senior Pan American Championships.
He can do that with a top-two finish at the trials. That will enable him to travel with the U.S. team internationally to compete in events to earn points toward qualifying for the Olympics. A trip to the 2024 Olympics is a more realistic goal, according to Baldis.
“It’s been my dream since I was 8 to compete in the Olympics,” Smith said. “It’s a dream of mine that I’ve been working towards all my life. It would mean the world to represent my country. I love the sport. It would fulfill my journey throughout karate and all the travel I’ve been doing.”
DJ Vasil is a freelance writer.