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   Many students at Pinewood are recognized as top players on our school sports teams, but what about those who excel at sports not offered at Pinewood? Srinivas Balagopal, a sophomore at Pinewood, is one of these students.

  Balagopal has been learning kung fu for 10 years, starting when his parents enrolled him in classes at five years old. They wanted to “set the foundation for a lifelong health and fitness regimen,” Balagopal said. Though his parents made the choice to enroll him, he fell in love with this form of martial arts. Currently, Balagopal trains four to five times a week at the Legend Kung Fu Academy in Fremont.

When he practices, he “develop[s] self-discipline and focus through chi[, or] ‘energy,’ [allowing his] body and mind to work in sync,” Balagopal said.   

  He has developed a lot of patience by practicing kung fu as well. “I can spend weeks perfecting a movement that is only five seconds long, but it [is] a glorious five seconds when I can do that movement well,” Balagopal said.

  His practice pays off, because it has earned him the right to participate in many different regional tournaments. Among others such as the Chinese Martial Arts Tournament hosted by UC Berkeley. Balagopal competed in “the Golden State International Tournament, which is the qualifier for the US National Team,” Balagopal said.

  The World Kung Fu Championship began on Nov. 7 this year, and Balagopal travelled to E’meishan, China to compete.

The tournament was his first time competing outside of the country. The competition consisted of “3,800 competitors from 57 countries. . . [my] spirit was elevated by befriending like-minded team members from other states. [The World Kung Fu Championship is] the equivalent of the Olympics for kung fu,” Balagopal said.

By the end of the four day competition, “I won two bronze medals for both of my events,” Balagopal said. He competed in two events, “the Tongbei Quan” and “the Whip Chain routine,” both for which he won bronze medals. Balagopal describes the Tongbei Quan as “a bare hand form routine . . . which resembles the style of an ape.” For the Whip Chain routine, Balagopal uses a “whip with steel chainlinks.”

Whether it be in Mount Emei, China or Los Altos Hills, Pinewood students excel.