Editor’s Note: Before the Paralympic Games open on September 7, we’ll be introducing you to the U.S. Paralympic athletes who will be competing in visual impairment categories in Rio de Janeiro through a series entitled “Rio-Bound”. Follow along on our website and social media with #riobound. Though the torch was extinguished at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 21, we’re counting down the days until it is re-lit for the Paralympic Games! A full schedule of events can be found at www.rio2016.com. You can tune into NBC and NBCSN (broadcast schedule here) or stream Games coverage live online at www.paralympic.org or https://www.dailymotion.com/Paralympics.
Birthdate: June 10, 1989
Hometown: Crystal Lake, Ill.
High School: Prairie Ridge High School ’07 (Crystal Lake, Ill.)
College: Kishwaukee College (Malta, Ill.) – AA, Northern Illinois University (Delkab, Ill.) – BA in Communications, Adler University – graduate studies (starting Fall 2016)
Motto: The motto “Yes I can” was engrained in Sarah by her father when she started studying Taekwondo as a toddler.
2015 Parapan American Games
2015 IBSA World Judo Championships
2015 Paralympic Judo World Cup
Born with Bilateral Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Sarah has been legally blind since birth. She began learning Taekwondo as a toddler and continued developing her skills in martial arts as a young athlete. Sarah was introduced to judo by Howard Wilson, a judoka from Menomonee Judo Club. As she grew in her knowledge of martial arts, she began dreaming of competing in the Paralympics. Wilson invited her to practice and she hasn’t stopped going since! That was in December of 2013, just nearly 3 years ago.
In 2 years, Sarah has risen to the top of her sport, ranking top judoka in the U.S. in the women’s +70kg division. In addition to winning multiple domestic competitions, she’s been ranked 7th in the world by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA). This will be her first Paralympic Games. We caught up with Sarah shortly after she was named to the team to find out what she’s looking forward to most.
USABA: This is your first Paralympic Games! How are you feeling?
SC: I am over the moon! The feelings are indescribable.
USABA: What are you most looking forward to at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games?
SC: I’ve never been to Rio before. It’s hard to say what I’m looking forward to the most. I’m excited to experience all of the culture, food and scenery around me. Competition-wise, I feel compelled to say that I’ll try to make it up on the podium. I believe in Team USA and we will take competition by storm!
USABA: Who are the people you thank most for helping you get to this point in your athletic career?
SC: There are so many people to thank… My parents and sister for supporting me through this journey. They have come to competitions to cheer for me. My coach and Sensei Brett Wolf. Senseis Danielle Tanimura, Scott Goldstein and Shingo Uto. So many amazing senpai and training partners. I can’t just name one person because they all helped me achieve this dream. Menomonee Judo Club is a family. We all worked immeasurably hard to get here. I promise I will do my best! I also want to thank my friends, extended family, teachers and supporters and Wintrust for believing in me! I’m proudly a part of Chicago’s Team!
Sarah will begin competition in Rio on September 10 in the Women’s 70+kg category. Find the full judo schedule and results at www.rio2016.org and follow along on social media.
Connect with Sarah
Facebook: Sarah Chung