Claire Kim said she was known as "The One," but just three years ago, was considered to be done.
Far from it, she has proved.
The Huntington Beach resident is in Vladivostok, Russia, this week representing the USA at the 2011 Taekwondo World Poomsae Championships. It's Kim's fourth time on the international stage as an athlete. Two other times she's been there as an assistant coach on the USA staff. Combined, she's been a part of the World Poomsae Championships in every year of its six-year existence.
More than 570 athletes from 52 countries are expected for this year's world championships. The USA is sending the most athletes (24) to the competition, where 18 gold medals will be up for grabs and officiated by 50 international referees.
"I'm so excited to be going again," said Kim, whose family operates the Victory Martial Arts studio in Huntington Beach. "Every country is sending its best athletes to this competition and it's wonderful to be a part of it again.
"I'm still around and still have something to prove. I hope to make a statement there."
Three years ago, it didn't look like Kim would be part of the international competition, where athletes are tested in eight forms.
In 2008, she said she had to "bow out" of the Worlds in Turkey because of a fractured knee. The injury forced her away from competition, and Kim pursued her masters degree in interior architecture.
"I was always known as, 'the one,' the 'Poomsae Girl,' " she said. "I was the first to represent the USA in the Senior I division for three consecutive years. I was the one who made it to the final round at World Championships in 2007 (Korea). When I fractured my knee in 2008, I was unable to train and decided to put all of my focus running the studio and working on my master degree. During the two years of my absence, rumors within the Poomsae world had come up that I was done, and had retired from competition.
"The day after I turned in my final exam for my Thesis course, I immediately went to the gym … I was determined to make a come back and show the world that I still had it."
The 30-year-old, who has trained in Taekwondo for 25 years and taught the sport for more than 10 years, said she's ready for with her return to the Worlds as a competing athlete for the first time since 2008.
Kim made the USA National Team after winning her division at the USA National Poomsae team Trials selection tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., in May.
"This sport requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline," she said. "Every single step has to be trained perfectly. Nothing can be left to chance, since I can lose points every second and for every move done incorrectly."
Starting Friday, Kim will compete in the Senior II Female Gold division.
"I am very proud to be representing the USA at the World Poomsae Championships," said Kim, who has been a Huntington Beach resident since 1997. "This country has welcomed me and become my new home filled with freedom and opportunities. It is here that I have blossomed and achieved what I never thought was possible. I am determined to do my best and make my family, students, community and country proud."