Sophia Oceguera loves to kick it.
The 13-year-old has become so good at it, she has kicked her way to the Pam Am Games later this month in Costa Rica.
"I was just frozen. I was overwhelmed with joy. It was really cool," Sophia said.
She started the Korean martial art of taekwondo at age five.
Her older brother was heavily involved and she took a liking to it, too.
In July, the black belt athlete won gold at the national championships in Detroit.
That put her on the U.S. national team for her age group.
"She's really committed and dedicated to this sport. And, I mean, we as parents, have invested a lot of time," said mother Tara Oceguera. "She is ahead at her school. That is 4.0 or above. So she excels at her school work, she excels at this. She tries hard at everything she does."
Sophia practices five days a week and sometimes six for two hours a day.
She practices at Discovery Martial Arts in Stockton and at another high performance training center in Oakland.
Her coach, David Garmany, is a six-degree black belt with 38 years of taekwondo experience.
He says what makes Sophia special is she is both physically and mentally gifted.
"She can be under pressure and perform. Like she won nationals at the last second," Garmany said, who also owns Discovery Martial Arts.
Not surprisingly, the six-time state champion's ultimate goal is compete in the taekwondo world championships and the Olympic Games one day.
Sophia's parents are trying to raise money to offset costs for the trip to Costa Rica.
13 year old Sophia Oceguera gets her kicks beating down opponents.
Asked what she likes most about her sport taekwondo she doesn't hesitate.
"Fighting," she says.
And fight she can.
Doing it since age five, she became national champion in Detroit in July.
She dominated her opponents in the 12 to 14 age group.
She now is on the U.S. national team headed to the Pan Am Games in Costa Rica at the end of the month.
“She’s physically gifted and mentally gifted. It takes both," says her coach David Garmany.
He has coached Sophia from the start.
A six degree black belt himself, he says the six time state champ excels under pressure.
“Like she won nationals at the last second where she got a head shot at the last second. To do that at that level of competition to be that focused and keen is extremely rare," says Garmany who owns Discovery Martial Arts in Stockton where Sophia began training from the start.
She trains five days a week for 2 hours a day to get to this level.
That includes trips during the week to a high level training facility in Oakland, too.
And her proud mom says it’s been no easy “feat.”
“She misses out on a lot because she is training a lot. Her doing so well. She ahead in her school. 4.0 or above at her school," says mom Tara Oceguera.
“You have to give it your all every fight. Because the crowd doesn’t know if you have a hurt ankle or sprained whatever. You just fight your fight," says Sophia.
Her 9 year old brother Max is also into taekwondo.
He is impressed with his sister, too.
"She’s awesome," says Max.
Sophia would have gone to the world championships this year in Egypt, but her coach says the U.S. team passed for safety reasons.
Sophia would like one day to be world and Olympic champion.
Not an easy “feat” to accomplish.
But confident she can.
Sophia’s parents are trying to offset their daughter’s travel expenses to Costa Rica and a tournament upcoming in Mexico.
There is a link above where you can donate.