In Carbondale, a kick-start to the Olympics | AspenTimes.com

In Carbondale, a kick-start to the Olympics

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Contributed photoU.S. Army Sgt. William Rider is one the Army World Class Athlete Taekwondo Team members from Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, which will be training in Carbondale all this week in preparation for the Taekwondo Olympic trials in a couple of weeks.

CARBONDALE – Some of the best Taekwondo athletes in the country are training in Carbondale for 10 days in preparation for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team tryouts later this month.

The soldier athletes are members of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete program based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.

Sgt. First Class David Bartlett is a former world class Taekwondo athlete himself who now coaches the six-man WCA team. He is bringing five members of the team to train this week and part of next at the Pro-TKD Martial Arts Center and other locations in Carbondale.

“These men are soldiers first, so those duties come first,” Bartlett explained. “But all of them are internationally ranked and get to compete on a national and international level.”

Among them are veterans of the Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait wars.

The team members range in age from 20 to 33. The team trains five days a week, two times a day, primarily in Colorado Springs, which is also home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

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“The Army’s World Class Athlete Program gives athletes the chance to compete without some of the stresses other athletes have with finding facilities and housing while they train,” said Bartlett, 30, a six-time U.S. National Champion, 2000 Olympic qualifier and 2009 inductee into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame.

To qualify, all of the TKD athletes that come into the program must have already placed in the top three at a national level in their weight class.

“It is a more challenging program, not just recreational,” Bartlett said.

The team will be in Carbondale today through Nov. 10, and is preparing for the 2012 Olympic

Team tryouts to be held in Colorado Springs Nov 14-16. One member of the team, Sgt. William Rider, is already qualified to compete in the trials.

Bartlett is optimistic that he can qualify more athletes for the trials, and a chance to send some athletes to the London Games in two years.

Bartlett said the Carbondale training opportunity came about as a result of his acquaintance with Pro-TKD owner and coach, Master Doug Fuechsel, whom he met shortly before joining the Army at age 18 in 1998.

“I got to do a Pay Per View competition in Aspen, and that’s where I met Doug,” Bartlett said.

The Carbondale training time will give the team a chance to get away from the normal routine of Army work at Fort Carson and other distractions, he said.

In addition to training at the Pro-TKD center, the team also plans to work out at the Carbondale Recreation Center. Team members will also spend some time working with the youth athletes who train under Fuechsel, he said.

jstroud@aspentimes.com