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Sunday, April 10, 2005
Black belts and
YOU can see it in the two of them, the family resemblance. The love. It shines through them, when they're together. It's obvious, if only you look.
How many more days as a karate kid?
"I don't know," she says. "A couple more years. I'm only 23, so I have a few more years."
"As long as I can," DiBrogrozcio says. "I don't want to lay around."
DiBrogrozcio won age-group gold medals at nationals three separate years. But he's since slowed down on the competitive aspect of the sport. Done his share, he says.
In 2002, his granddaughter became the second American woman to win a world karate title. Last year, she added two more, the first person to have earned a pair of individual golds at a single Karate World Championships.
Holy cow. How much pau hana time goes into that? Well, four nights a week working at their regular classes at the International Karate Federation dojo, plus two more days on her own. Running. Cross-training. Conditioning.
"Three times," DiBrogrozcio says.
Well, that's enough, isn't it? That seems like plenty.
"For me that's enough," he says.
Besides, the man isn't training to stay world champ, the way his granddaughter is. He's got other things going on. Like bread. He makes bread at least once a week.
Wonderful Italian bread. Heavenly Italian bread. Oh, what bread.
"Oh, God," DiBrogrozcio says.
He's teaching Elisa how to do it, too, passing down the family recipe.
You could eat it for days. Except, well, most of us probably shouldn't.
"Not me," he says wistfully. "I'm only allowed one slice."
So it has to be the same with Au, doesn't it? After all, she is in training. She's a world-class athlete. She has to watch her nutrition. She can't afford to let anything slip. She couldn't possibly indulge herself in ...
She blushes. They look at each other, eyes shining, both glowing, and she gets that granddaughter grin.
"I'm really active," she says.
Sullivan Award finalists» Elisa Au, karate world champion
» Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps, Olympic swimming champions
» Paul Hamm and Carly Patterson, Olympic gymnastics all-around gold medalists
» Matt Leinart, football All-American, Heisman Trophy winner and NCAA Division I team national champion
» Steven Lopez, Olympic tae kwon do champion
» Cael Sanderson, Olympic wrestling champion
» Andre Ward, Olympic boxing champion
» Jeremy Wariner, NCAA and Olympic 400-meter champion
Source: Amateur Athletic Union
For years, proud Grampa just watched from the sidelines as young Elisa traveled everywhere, practiced every night, won again and again. He never thought of joining up.
Then one day he asked if he wasn't too old. He wasn't. And so he's been kicking in her footsteps ever since.
"What really started it," he says. "My wife died that same year. So I said, I'm not going to sit home. That's no good. So I found other things. The police station." He volunteers for HPD at the front desk in Pearl City, after having retired from the Navy and Hilton. "And then I decided, well this would be a good way to keep in shape.
"I lost 20 pounds since that point. And kept it off. I got a late start."
Ah, but he has an advantage, too. His granddaughter is the world champ.
And so he has a Sullivan Award finalist there to guide him, to teach him, to show him. And, yes, for scoldings, too.
"She scolds everybody when they do it wrong," he says.
She's not his main instructor, she says. But she helps.
"She's my study buddy," he says.
That sounds more like it. Maybe it's just the way she is with her grandfather, on this night, but Elisa Au doesn't really scold people, does she?
"Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!" DiBrogrozcio insists, adding a laugh. "And some of it's rubbed off on me."
"Oh, when I work these kids they're afraid. They agree: 'Grampa mean.' "
And when she was small, did he give her scoldings?
Au looks over, glowing, that granddaughter grin again. She melts at the very thought.
"Nooooo," she says. "He's Grampa."