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Two golds and counting

KAHULUI – Camryn Henry is in a hurry.

The 15-year-old Kihei Charter School junior-to-be brought home gold medals from two world-class tournaments this month. But Friday at the Kiffmann Taekwondo gym, she was dealing with a frustrating knee injury.

“Right now – we’re just waiting for the call,” Henry said after being asked when the knee would be evaluated.

The preliminary diagnosis is a torn meniscus. Once it heals, the future appears bright for Henry judging by her recent accomplishments.

On July 1, Henry won the title in her junior weight class at the Australian Open in Melbourne. She would have earned world ranking points used in Olympic qualifying in the G2 class event if she had competed as a senior.

“That was crazy,” Henry said of the experience Down Under. “It doesn’t process in your mind at first. I’m on my first match and I’m, like, ‘OK, beat that girl.’ Then it was on to the next one. That was (a) 7-6 (win), super close, and your heart starts pumping, four seconds on the clock left when she got within one point, but I held on.”

She dislocated a finger in the final, but had the gold in hand.

“I couldn’t believe I had just won internationally,” she said. “Last year I started winning more and at the end of the year I won the Pan American (title), which is an international event. So, I was, like, ‘Oh, I’m not that bad, I’m doing good.’ It’s processing that I’m actually good.”

She followed the Australian title with a gold medal at the USA Taekwondo Nationals in Austin, Texas, becoming the first athlete from Maui to claim a national championship in a black belt world class division when she won her junior 68-kilogram weight class.

However, Henry had to surrender a potential junior world team spot in the team trials when she hurt her knee against the challenger who emerged from the consolation bracket.

Henry outscored three opponents at nationals 50-12 before being hurt.

After winning the junior national crown, she watched the senior national competition she had to drop out of because of the knee injury.

“I was watching and I said to myself, ‘I could have done it, I could have won,’ ” Henry said.

Her training mentor and partner would certainly agree.

Master Miles Kiffmann, 22, is a national-level competitor who spars with Henry and trained her for the Australian Open.

“She’s really strong in the division,” he said. “She’s got a really good right-leg roundhouse kick and she’s very aggressive. Right at the beginning of the match, she is right in the girl’s face, right away, kick in the head. She dominates a lot of the competition.”

Master Gunter Kiffmann, Miles’ father, trained Henry for nationals and said she has Olympic potential.

“Next year she will eligible to compete (as a senior) at 17,” Gunter Kiffmann said. “I think she’s the best in the country right now. Internationally, as like we saw at the Australian Open, she’s pretty up there, too. We don’t know all of the international juniors, but in America right now she’s at the top of her game and she’s No. 1.”

It’s all a lot to comprehend for a girl with two years of high school left. It has been a dramatic rise from the 8-year-old who was just learning the sport to an aspiring Olympian.

“I just think of the Olympics and when I went to Australia, I met a whole bunch of Olympians,” she said. “I was sparring with them and I just thought, ‘This could be me, I could be an Olympian.’ I always have my mind on 2020, Tokyo.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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