Gabrielle Gilardoni holding up her metals (Alanis Hill, The Puma Prensa)
By Alanis Hill
Gabrielle Gilardoni, Maria Carrillo High School senior, after multiple tournaments and competitions, won the title of Taekwondo State champion in May 2022. For Gilardoni, it was a long journey to get to the point of being rewarded as the state’s best. She attended six days a week of practice and grueling competitions to win the championship, climbing the ranks and beating the very best along the way.
Gilardoni first started Taekwondo at the age of nine. Before she was even born, both her parents had been training in the sport as well for five years and had already gained their black belts. During the time when Gilardoni’s mother was pregnant with her, they kept training. Her parents stopped practicing the sport after she was born, so she grew up with her role models being high ranks in Taekwondo. Many of her older siblings have practiced the sport before her, so it was no wonder that she also took it up.
Gilardoni was trained by the same instructor that her parents were trained by. She then began to rise in ranks until she reached the third belt, an orange decided, where she then participated in her first tournament. There are four categories in tournaments, forms, weapons, combat sparring, and sparring. She participated in sparring for the most part. She was hooked on tournaments; the thrill of competing kept her on her toes. She went to any regional tournaments she could in the area and to her first big tournament, nationals, at age 11. Gilardoni practiced two times a week for three years, and after all that training, she gained her first-degree black belt at 12 years old.
During a portion of her freshman year, she took a break from the sport to focus on academics. After her break, she earned her second-degree black belt. The process of earning that belt was a grueling test of strength. Gilardoni needed to take a fitness test that was made of 100 push ups, two minutes of plank in perfect form, and a variety of combos. Many people will drop out while completing it; they may pass out or throw up during the test, but not Gilardoni .
After getting her second-degree black belt, she had the credibility to start teaching students at her dojo, going through drills with her students, and working on material. Her classes varied from small kids to full-grown adults, and she continued to practice as well as work in the dojo, causing her to be there six days a week.
Once COVID hit late into her freshman year, Gilardoni was forced to take another break like most people during that time. She made sure to keep in shape by working out with home equipment and by other means. With her active mindset, she made it through her sophomore year on Zoom and soon entered back into in-person learning.
Coming back to school after COVID, she realized she hadn’t gone to nationals in about three years. Nationals is where one could gain their title as a champion and compete against many other opponents from all across the country. With that realization, she knew it was her time to aim for the top. Before competition season, she continued to attend her practices, also letting herself focus on her other activities like drums.
Competition season came around quickly, and unfortunately for Gilardoni, it was also when softball season also started, meaning that as she competed in her martial art, she also needed to attend softball practices from 3:45 to 6:00 and go to games, making her already chaotic schedule even more of a mess. She also had her job at the dojo. Not to mention the constant travel for games and going to competitions that could be as far as Modesto. With all that and academics, there was barely time to rest for Gilardoni, but she persevered.
“I have a lot to do, but I actually enjoy having such a packed schedule,” said Gilardoni.
Eventually, after competing in countless tournaments, and never getting anything below third place, she was finally being considered in the running for state champ. All the points she earned through placement in her regional competitions would be put up against the girls her age across the state. It took a while before scores could finally be counted up. Gilardoni was excited yet also nervous for the final result.
A few weeks after the championship, she got a letter and was titled the State Champ of California. All the weeks of trial and challenge had earned her the title that so many fought for, but her journey wasn’t finished there. She wanted to become a world champ. To become one, she’d have to travel all the way to Arizona to compete against people who came from all over the globe.
She went to Arizona with her mom, who would also be competing. In the end, she came in fourth in the competition, while her mother became a world champion. Though Gilardoni did not become a world champ last season, she hopes to be able to accomplish her goal in the coming one.
Gilardoni said, “Next season, I plan to work twice as hard to become state champ again and then world.” With everything going her way she may just become one.