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Alo's Olympic dreams realistic


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POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

Teshya Alo is used to witnessing opponents' temper tantrums after a match. Because when you're a preteen girl beating boys on the wrestling mat or when you're an adolescent girl besting judo opponents more than seven years your senior, some people aren't very happy to see you win.

They'll refuse to shake your hand after a loss. They'll spread ridiculous rumors of steroid use despite your 4-foot-8, 80-pound (and that's being generous) frame. They'll skip a tournament photo opportunity of top finishers because they're so upset about losing to you. They'll forget about sportsmanship and grace in defeat and instead act like a spoiled, poor loser.

Alo, an 11-year-old wrestling and judo phenom, calls some opponents' postmatch antics “;mean,”; but she's learning to live with it. She's had to, since she's been winning and setting standards at an unprecedented rate this summer.

In June, the Honolulu girl won the Greco-Roman and freestyle championships in the novice 75-pound divisions at the USA Wrestling Kids Nationals. In winning the freestyle gold medal, she beat six boys, pinning three of them. She is the first female to win a Kids Nationals freestyle championship, and she is the first female to win both freestyle and Greco-Roman championships as well.

In July, the soon-to-be seventh-grader won a U.S. Junior National judo championship in the girls intermediate, 42-kilogram division. Since there were no other competitors in her original division, Alo moved up to that division and competed against 16- and 18-year-old girls.

“;I feel really happy and proud of myself because I train hard,”; she said in Waikiki this past weekend. “;I have to train hard to be the best. If you don't train, you don't get better. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”;

Right now, one of the best young female wrestling and judo champions in the United States is a personable, chatty, 11-year-old who adores shopping for clothes and candy and admits to being a tomboy. With her big brown eyes, freckles all over her cheeks and an easy smile, she doesn't look the part of an aggressive, fearless grappler, although the fading remnants of a dime-sized bruise on her left shoulder and a fat lip tell a different story.

Alo's passion for wrestling started around the age of 5 when her father, Leroy, noticed Alo and her younger sister, Teniya, tussling on the living room floor. He started to teach them wrestling maneuvers, and Alo quickly took to the sport. She later added baseball, jiujitsu and judo to her sporty resume, but she has recently focused primarily on wrestling and judo. And for good reason.

“;She is the one,”; said Alo's judo coach Robin Mori. “;She is that one kid that you find out of 1,000 kids that try out that is the one special kid.”;

She is so good that both Mori and John Robinson, Alo's wrestling coach, will talk about Alo competing in the 2012 Olympics without a hint of sarcasm or irony. The coaches insist that this young, sweet girl from Kalihi is good enough to realistically start thinking about the London Olympics in three years (for judo) and the wrestling national team in 2013. (Because of age requirements, Alo could be eligible for the London Olympics in judo but not wrestling.)

“;If I could bet in Vegas, I would put my money down on this girl that she will be an Olympic champion,”; Mori said. “;That's how good she is.”;

Robinson insists that any talk of Alo in the Olympics is neither premature nor presumptuous. She is that good, he said, and if this were a non-contact sport like gymnastics or figure skating, her age wouldn't be an issue.

That Olympic dream is at the forefront of Alo's future goals in both sports, and she talks about it without reticence or arrogance. She simply speaks of an Olympic dream with the matter-of-fact confidence of a young champion.

“;I want to take it all the way,”; she said. “;I want to practice until I am an Olympic champion.”;

“;She wants to try both (wrestling and judo), but I don't think it's possible,”; said Leroy Alo.

“;I think it's possible,”; she responded quickly.

Why shouldn't she believe? Nothing has stopped her so far.