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Asian American Olympic Hopefuls

Asianweek, News report, Asianweek Staff Posted: Jun 04, 2008

A dozen or so Asian Americans are hoping to bring home the gold after the Beijing 2008 Olympics.


Howard Bach

bachBach, 29, will be trying to make his second consecutive U.S. Olympic Team competing in badmintons mens doubles events. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Bach and his family moved to San Francisco when he was 3 years old. Bach learned how to play badminton from his dad, who played in Vietnam and then continued to play at the local YMCA in the U.S. Bach counts his dad as his first coach and partner.

In 2005, Bach won the Doubles International Championship with partner Tony Gunawan, marking the first time an American team ever medaled in a major international badminton tournament


Kim Hayashi

kimHayashi, 22, was born in Hawaii and said she dreamed of being an Olympic athlete since she was in elementary school.

Hayashis mom first encouraged her to try BMX racing, a sport that her brother and cousin pursued before her. According to Hayashi, BMX racing is a family-oriented sport that teaches discipline, determination, focus and sportsmanship. Its also fun to race friends while flying through the air over dirt jumps.

After the Olympics, Hayashi is looking forward to graduating from Arizona State University and then going to dental school to become an orthodontist.


Tara Kirk

Kirk, 25, was a 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter medley relay (prelims), and finished sixth in the 100-meter breaststroke. At the 2006 FINA Short Course World Championships in Shanghai, Kirk captured gold in the 100-meter breaststroke, her first individual gold since winning the 50-meter breaststroke at the World University Games in 2001.

Kirk graduated from Stanford with a bachelors degree in human biology and then received her masters degree in anthropological sciences. She has aspirations to work for the World Health Organization.

Kirk is proud of her Chinese heritage. Her grandfather was born in Quangdong, China, and immigrated to Hong Kong and later the Philippines. Kirks grandmother was born in the Philippines to Chinese parents. She still has family members living in China.

Table Tennis:

Gao Jun Chang

gaoA member of the U.S. National Team since 1997, Chang, 39, is currently ranked 16th in the world and is the top female in the U.S. Encouraged by her father, Chang began playing table tennis at age 5. She is currently training in China and is studying economic trade at East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai. Before becoming a U.S. citizen, Chang won the 1992 Olympic silver medal in womens doubles for China. She was born in Boading, China, and resides in Gaithersburg, Md.


Taylor Takata

Takata, 26, from Wahaiawa, Hawaii, represented the U.S. in the 60-kilogram weight division at the Junior and Senior World Championships, and won the National Championship, Pan American and U.S. Open titles. Takata won gold at the 2007 FEDOJUDO International Cup and silver at the 2007 U.S. Open. In 2004, Takata moved up in the ranks of the 66-kilogram division, and he is now hoping to make his first Olympic Team.


Rhythmic Gymnastics:

Lisa Wang

Wang, 19, finished first all-around in both the 2007 and 2008 Rhythmic Challenge in Colorado Springs, and finished first in the hoop event and second in the rope and ribbon events of the 2007 Visa Championships in San Jose. Wang started gymnastics in the third grade and was hooked. She says she loves the thrill of competing and working hard toward her goals.

Wang graduated high school in January 2007 and has been accepted to Yale University. She will take a year off school to train. Shes planning to study international studies or journalism. Wang says that her parents are her role models, because her mom is honest, friendly and supportive, and her dad works very hard at everything he does.

Artistic Gymnastics:

Ivana Hong

Hong, 15, is a native of Laguna Hills, Calif. She won the team gold medal and the all-around bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hong also placed fourth in the all-around at the 2007 Visa Championships and won the team gold medal at the 2007 World Championships.

Hong, whose parents are Chinese but were born in Vietnam, is an honor roll high school student, and she hopes to become a gymnastics judge one day. Hong says her role models are her grandma and gymnast Courtney McCool.


Haley Ishimatsu

diverFrom Seal Beach, Calif., 15-year-old Ishimatsu won her first national championship at the 2007 Spring Nationals. At the 2007 Pan American Games, Ishimatsu won the platform silver medal and the bronze in synchronized diving.

Ishimatsu started diving in 2004, and trains four and a half hours a day, six days a week. Ishimatsu loves to read and collect rocks.

Kimiko Soldati

Soldati, 34, was the U.S. 3-meter diving champion in 2004, and was first in both the 3-meter and platform competitions at the 2002 World Cup Trials.

Soldati began her athletic career as a gymnast, but sustained a serious knee injury at age 15. After a year of rehabilitation, her father suggested she try diving. She decided to try out for her high school diving team and found success, being named U.S. Diving Athlete for the Year in 2001 and 2002.

Of Japanese ancestry, Soldatis father, Gary, was born in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

Field Hockey:

Binh Hoang

hoangHoang, 33, is a forward for the USA National Field Hockey Squad. In 2007, Hoang helped his squad win their series at the USA vs. Mexico Pan American Games Qualifying Series. Bin began playing field hockey when he was 7 years old, and says that his older brothers, Tommy and Sammy, who were his first hockey coaches, are now his number one fans.

Hoang, who was born in Vietnam and now lives in Westlake Village, Calif., graduated from California Lutheran University with a degree in sports medicine and a masters degree in business administration. Hoang is the chief executive officer of AttachPoint LLC.

Artistic Gymnastics:

Kevin Tan

kevinA hyperactive child, Tan, 27, began gymnastics in 1988. In November 2005, Tan represented the United States at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, and was captain of the mens team for the 2006 World Championships. He has won numerous national competitions, including the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge and the 2007 Visa Championships.

The Pennsylvania State University alums goals are to make the World Championships and Olympic Games teams, and to contribute and be part of a U.S. Team medal. Although he loves every aspect of gymnastics, he also loves golf.

Yewki Tomita

Tomita, whose parents owned a gym, was looking toward a career in international business that afforded him the opportunity to travel.tomita

The 28-year-old Arizona native, who started his interest in gymnastics in 1986, is now aiming his goals on an Olympic gold medal after being kept out of the last quadrennial due to shoulder surgeries.

Some of his latest accomplishments are winning the 2006 National Winter Cup Challenge and the 2006 15th Internationaux de France-World Cup Event.

Sho Nakamori

Both of Nakamoris parents were gymnasts in college, so it isnt a surprise that his favorite thing in college is gymnastics. The 22-year-old fell in love with the sport at age 7 when he won the first meet he ever entered. He was selected to the USA National Team after finishing third in the all-around at the USA National Championships. His hopes are to make the World Championships Team and to win a medal at the Olympic Games.


Outside of gymnastics, he likes hanging out with his friends and going to the movies.

Raj Bhavsar

Bhavsar, 27, was a member of the 2001 World Championships Team, as well as the 2002 NCAA all-around champion. Some of his latest accomplishments are winning the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge and the 2008 Tyson American Cup.


The Texas native, who jumped off furniture on a daily basis as a child, started in gymnastics in 1983. After graduating from Ohio State University in 2004 with a degree in business administration/marketing, his current goal is to get to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

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