Junior an Olympic hopeful

The referee separated the fighters and called a technical knockout just ninety-seven seconds into the match. The score was 13-2 and, for the safety of the Puerto Rican black belt, the fight was ended. RJ

The referee separated the fighters and called a technical knockout just ninety-seven seconds into the match.

The score was 13-2 and, for the safety of the Puerto Rican black belt, the fight was ended.

RJ Carpenter watched as the other fighter left the ring, dazed.

Carpenter’s quarterfinals win at the national collegiate tournament in Puerto Rico last November didn’t just send the Philosophy major into the semifinals; it qualified him to attend the U.S. Collegiate Team Trials this May in Kansas City.

The team trials is Carpenter’s chance to qualify for the United States Collegiate Olympic team and train in South Korea this summer.

He would get to compete in the collegiate Olympics with top performers from universities around the world.

He would also be one step away from the Olympic Summer Games in 2004.

For Carpenter, vice president of Temple University’s taekwondo club, the knockout was just one more notch on his belt.

The new black belt has been gaining respect on the collegiate circuit for the past year.

Carpenter, for the moment, is thoughtful.

“This is huge,” he said.

“Even on the collegiate circuit, how many fighters get the chance to attend the team trials? Temple’s team is small but we’re ambitious; our instructor is all about making sure we get these opportunities.”

Though he appears a natural fighter, Carpenter’s physical and mental skills, as well as his competitive edge, have been in development since childhood.

Years of soccer, basketball and football, combined with his natural abilities to fine tune the speed, agility, coordination and responsiveness, have given him an edge ever since he discovered taekwondo in college.

“My parents were great about making sure I stayed involved with everything from travel soccer teams in middle school to coaching basketball camps during high school,” Carpenter said.

“I’ve always been surrounded by sports.”

Though originally recruited to Chowan University in South Carolina for basketball and football, Carpenter soon transferred to Temple University.

Master Laurence Narcisi, instructor of Temple’s taekwondo team, immediately recruited the 6’4″ freshman for his height.

However, Narcisi was quick to recognize Carpenter’s natural abilities.

It took Carpenter just two years to rise from white belt to black belt.

He took gold at the national tournament last year as a red belt.

Now, competing for the first time as a black belt against older, more experienced black belts, Carpenter is still finding himself equal to the challenge.

The physical challenges he faces in the ring play counterpoint to the mental ones that he tackles in his philosophy classes.

Carpenter is a study of contradictions, but the contradictions are the basis of his personality.

He moves from one topic or activity to the next without breaking stride or even noticing, and he can be dismayingly persuasive, whether he is discussing Plato’s allegory of the cave, or debating the supremacy of college basketball to the NBA.

His has a dominating personality in class, in club, in conversation and in the ring.

Now, while Carpenter is in fulltime training for team trials, the rest of his team prepares for other tournaments.

The team boasts several collegiate, state and national champions aside from Carpenter.

Last weekend the team had 11 fighters qualify for the National Tournament next month in New Orleans.

But although they are used to traveling to places like Puerto Rico, Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland and New Orleans for competition, the team competes primarily on the New England Ivy League Collegiate Circuit.

In addition to the state and national tournaments, they will be competing at Columbia and Yale universities this semester.

Sarah Kuhn can be reached at skuhn@temple.edu.

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