Janesville teen qualifies for Pan Am Games
Payton Foley is 4 feet, 10 inches tall.
She can turn every inch of her body into a whirling dervish.
A third-degree black belt in tae kwon do, the 15-year-old Janesville girl has earned a spot on the USA Junior Olympics karate team.
The Parker High sophomore will leave for the Pan American Games in El Salvador on Monday, Aug. 31. She flies from Chicago to Houston, where the 80-member team will meet.
The team will then fly to El Salvador. It will be met by a U.S. Marines unit, which will serve as the team’s bodyguards.
Foley is the first Wisconsin athlete to earn a spot on the USA Junior Olympic Team.
She earned the berth by finishing second in the 14-15 age group in the 47 kilogram division of the USA Karate National Championships and Olympic Team Trials in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in July.
“I was excited,” she said about making the team. “I did a little victory dance.”
In addition, Foley will compete in the Haliwell Cup in Milwaukee this weekend.
Competitors from 37 countries will take part of the Pan American Games.
Making the team is a culmination of many hours of training.
The daughter of Bernard and Sharon Foley first began competing at Karate America in Janesville nine years ago.
It was love at first sight.
“I really didn’t have a lot of friends at school because I was always at the dojo (training place),” Foley said.
She then trained at the highly regarded Sharkey’s Karate Studio in Naperville, Ill.
She participated in extreme martial arts while at Sharkey’s. That led to her being part of the “Sideswipe Performance Team,” which combines traditional martial arts such as karate and tae kwon do, with gymnastics and acrobatics.
The result is a show of jumps, kicks and displays of strength and stamina.
Foley’s “side adventure” in karate involves a samurai sword.
“I just got interested in it,” she said. “I got tired of my first weapon, which was a bow (stick). I do a variety of cuts, and then sometimes I throw it into the air, spin around once and catch it while I’m on my knee and do flips with it.”
Isn’t that dangerous?
“Yeah, it’s dangerous,” Foley said, smiling.
That is part of the extreme martial arts. What Foley concentrates on is the traditional martial arts.
Foley now trains at Haliwell Studio in Oak Creek. Her workouts last seven hours each day.
She does 30 minutes on a treadmill, then a half-hour on the elliptical (stair climbing) machine, 700 ab sit-ups, then weight work with her punches and bench presses.
Her mother, Sharon, drives her to Oak Creek each day. When the school year starts, she will spend weekends at Oak Creek.
“If it wasn’t competition time, we might lay back and just do it a couple of days a week,” Sharon said.
The training prepares Payton for the kumite (coo-ma-tay) or sparring.
Opponents engage each other with four judges on sides of the mat. Points are awarded for clean kicks to the head or back.
The match typically lasts two minutes, unless one of the competitors gets up 8-0.
“You can get points throwing, by tripping, making them lose their balance, doing a reverse punch or by kicks,” Foley said.
Kicks to the head must be controlled. So the competitors must be quick enough to get a clean kick, but must only tap their opponent’s head.
“Hey, you have to be a black belt,” Foley says when asked about the difficulty of “pulling” kicks.
“You have to learn how to use control.
“You definitely have to be quick, because if they do get a hold of your leg, they can sweep you right away.”
Competitors earn three points for a head kick and two points for most other kicks and punches.
The action resembles boxing, except action is stopped whenever points are scored.
Payton has no problem making her weight class. She weighs 93 pounds—12 pounds less than the maximum.
“I’m not going to go up against the Jolly Green Giant,” she said.
Payton will miss the first week of school due to the Pan American Games.
“A lot of my friends know I do martial arts,” she said, “but they don’t know the details.”
Payton hopes to have several great stories to tell when she gets back from El Salvador.