#PrepareAtPeace: WPU Student Competing for Spot on USA Karate Olympic Team
The WPU campus is all hustle and bustle with the spring semester well underway and while students hurry to their new classes, most of them are completely unaware that a black belt in karate walks among them, vying for a spot on Team USA in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Aerieal Vineyard ’20 is currently a member of the USA Karate Junior National Team, where she competes in the 18-20 age division. She has studied both the kumite and the kata sections of karate for almost 11 years (kata is the traditional application of the karate movements and is generally performed in a solo competition, where one executes complex choreographed moves and attacks, in which they are judged for precision and form).
“It’s a rewarding sport. I like to know that if I work hard and put in the effort, that it will pay off.”
“It’s a rewarding sport,” Vineyard said. “I like to know that if I work hard and put in the effort, that it will pay off.”
The Exercise and Sport Science major started karate when she was 10 years old in Alaska, where her father was stationed with the United States Air Force. She tried other sports, such as dance and gymnastics, but it was her father’s interest in karate that swayed her decision. Quickly, Vineyard fell in love with the competitiveness and camaraderie of the sport, which has earned her many friends from competitions across the country.
A skilled and fierce competitor, Aerieal competes in the elite division. What makes her journey even more unique and impressive is that most karate athletes begin competing in this division at age 12. Aerieal began competing when she was 17.
She said the sport has taken her to many amazing places, including Colorado, where she was recently invited to compete at the USA Olympic Training Center. She’s also competed in Nevada, New York and could potentially head to Austria this March for an international competition. However, if she qualifies in 2020, Tokyo could be her most exciting destination yet.
Making the USA National Team doesn’t guarantee Vineyard a spot on the US Olympic Team, though. Would-be Olympians need to gain points by competing and performing well in national and international karate events. Currently, the specific amount of points needed to earn the privilege to compete in Tokyo is still relatively undefined because karate will be featured as an Olympic sport for the first-ever time.
Despite this, Aerieal remains optimistic about her chances for Tokyo and beyond. She continues to focus on each event as they come while also balancing a busy schedule which includes a part-time retail job and of course, her classes at WPU.
“My classmates are usually very shocked to learn that I do karate,” Vineyard said. “Mostly because Karate is such an uncommon sport to be a part of. When they find out that I do karate, they usually ask me a lot of questions about it.”
“The professors and staff [at WPU] are all about attaining your goals and working hard.”
Aerieal hopes to work in physical therapy after graduating and earning her ESS degree from Peace.
“I want to be a physical therapy assistant,” Vineyard said. “Because you actually get to work with the patients, where most physical therapists spend a lot of their time doing paperwork.”
Vineyard chose to attend Peace because of its small size, friendly atmosphere and its downtown Raleigh location, which happens to be near her dojo. She notes that the faculty and staff are great about encouraging her not only academically, but athletically as well.
“The professors and staff [at WPU] are all about attaining your goals and working hard,” Vineyard said. “So I’m not only hearing that from my coach, but from my teachers as well.”
As karate continues to take Aerieal across the world and back, she’ll always have a campus and community of supporters in Raleigh; her home.
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