By AUDREY CUTLER
For junior Srinivas Balagopal, Kung Fu has been a part of his life for the past 12 years. His hard work, dedication, and discipline led him to represent the US National Team at the World Kung Fu Championships in Emeishan, China, where he won two bronze medals last year.
“I enjoyed bonding with other athletes from 60 different countries, as I learned new skills and techniques from them,” Balagopal said.
Although Balagopal has been very successful, his success would not have come without countless hours of training to master difficult concepts. Kung Fu is also about the mental drive and endurance one must acquire.
“The hardest part of Kung Fu is connecting the movements with agility, force, and rhythm, all at once,” Balagopal said.
After his 12 years of hard work, his love for Kung Fu has grown. Now, he spends 10 hours per week practicing and teaching other kids at his Kung Fu studio.
Junior Annika Mihara has been horseback riding for the past 11 years. Mihara started riding at the Square Peg Foundation, and felt an immediate connection to their program. Square Peg provides kids with certain challenges a safe environment to interact with horses. The foundation also rescues off-the-track thoroughbreds, which are ex-race horses of pure breeds.
As Mihara continued to pursue her involvement in this heart-warming charity, her passion for horseback riding grew. Mihara spends two or more hours each week riding, as well as roughly five hours each week volunteering at the Square Peg Foundation. When she previously rode for competitions, she would practice at least seven to 10 hours per week. Her dedication to horseback riding has enabled Mihara to help others while expressing her love of horses.
“My favorite part about riding is being able to bond with one horse for as long as possible,” Mihara said.