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Written by Agastya Vaidya
Gazing upon Townsend Harris’ Wall of Fame, one can see many of our school’s marvelous figures: the famous Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered the first polio vaccine, and then there’s newer faces such as last year’s inductee Dr. Heather Nash. No surprise, many of these inductees are those associated with science, math, and other scholarly titles. The fact that there aren’t any athletes on the wall shouldn’t mislead students; Townsend Harris has produced a number of robust athletes. Olympic Trials competitor Master Andrew Oh is one such athlete, unknown due to the fact that THHS does not have a taekwondo team.
Master Oh, a 5th Degree Certified Black Belt, is three Time US Member, US National Champion, and a ten time New York State Champion. Among his plethora of accomplishments, the most notable ones include his ninth place finish at the 2012 Olympic Trials and his 16th place global ranking in 2009.
Recalling his participation on the great stage, Master Oh revealed how the surreal atmosphere of the Olympic Trials “came to me a little bit suddenly.” He consistently stressed how it was clear that at these Trials, he was indeed among the best taekwondo athletes in the country. Oh reflected on the experience, explaining, “I was actually kind of not ready to go, I had just finished my training in California, so anyway I went again in January of 2012. Of course you’re fighting among the best of the best, the top level competition, so being a part of that group is something I’m very proud of and I’m honored to have competed with. But of course I would have loved to [have] done better, but it doesn’t always go your way, but I’m very happy for the other guys, my friends, and ultimately our goal is to have USA bring home the gold, so after the Olympic trials, that’s the focus.”
Master Oh also recalled his tenure at Townsend Harris and the familiar difficulty of balancing athletic training with academics. Immediately remembering the essays and tons of homework that had to find a place in his hard-pressed routine, which involved tons of running and nearly two to four hours of taekwondo training every day, Master Oh attributed a disciplined system of time management and preserved focus to his success. Oh recalled, “I organized my time well, and whenever I had time, [it] was divided up between my taekwondo training and my academics. But I think time management was the most important thing I learned while at Townsend Harris, and if my focus is school and Olympic taekwondo, then those are the two things I’m going to focus on and not any other distractions in my way.” He added that, “You get through it, but I definitely think that those experiences made me stronger, and made me a better person today.”
Before parting ways with Master Oh, I asked if he had any advice he’d want to share with Townsend Harris students today, a question which Master Oh emphatically responded, “GET IT DONE. If you have homework, get it done fast. If you have an essay or paper to write, get it done fast. And certainly, like I’ve been saying, organize your time and don’t let anything distract you. Nowadays there’s the phone, internet, it’s very distracting. As long as you do plan your time right and do what you have to do, you’ll be fine.”
Now retired from professional taekwondo competition, Master Oh can be found at his taekwondo school, Ultimate Champion’s Taekwondo, in Bayside, Queens. Like his father, who also instructs in the martials arts, he hopes to train a new generation of taekwondo athletes. Regardless of whether Master Oh is fighting at the Olympic games in London, or right here in Bayside, one thing is for sure: he has created a legacy that can be honored by all, students, athletes, and faculty here at Townsend Harris.