Last Week, Tyler Tabil represented the U.S. National Team at the Pan American Championships in Costa Rica. Fighting in the Cadet -53kg division, Tyler clinched a Bronze medal after toppling Panama and Bolivia but eventually succumbing to Canada in the semifinals by a margin of just 3 points. The next day Tyler moved up to the -57kg division to compete in the Costa Rica Open. He defeated Peru in his first match. Then, facing Canada, Tyler opened well and sustained the lead until the final seconds, when the Canadian pulled ahead and made away with the victory.
However, the Quest saga did not end there. Joining Tyler in the quest for gold at the Costa Rica Open was Chloe Towns, the US National Champion in the Seniors -49kg division. She faced the more challenging side of a stacked 16 player bracket, and managed to emerge with the silver medal. In the process, Chloe ousted two tough Mexican fighters, as well as the first seeded player, Olympian Charlotte Craig. Chloe went on to lose in the sudden death round of a very close finals match against fellow American, Carissa Fu.
Now that Tyler and Chloe have returned to the States, we asked them a few questions about their experience in Costa Rica. Here’s what they had to say:
What did you do, physically and mentally, to prepare for the competition?
Tyler: I had to do a lot of things to prepare, my mom would take me to a boot camp to help me get my weight down and to give me upper body strength for the new pushing game. I would sometimes have to work out 3 times a day. Bootcamp at 5 am, training on my own after school at 3 pm, then Taekwondo in the late afternoon…I would eat oatmeal and an apple in the car. Then while at school for lunch I would eat this meal prep my mom cooked and it was either chicken or salmon. My mom had me listen to these audio files that taught me how to handle myself in the ring and how to think positively about things and to hold myself up high.
Chloe: Physically I trained twice a day, every day except Sunday. I would do some sort of strength and conditioning training in the morning followed by Taekwondo training in the evening. To ensure I was in top ﬁghting condition, I took on a new diet that allowed me to train and prepare at my ﬁghting weight as opposed to training at a higher weight, then cutting down… Mentally, I prepared myself by reading and annotating a sports psychology book, in which I learned where my mental areas of weakness are and how to improve them.
How did you feel on the day of your competition?
Tyler: I was nervous at first, but I knew that if I have faith in the Lord he will help me and that pretty much calmed me down.
Chloe: I felt emotionally ready. I had the right amount of controlled nervousness and had a solid warm up. Unfortunately, I felt that I was oﬀ on my ﬁghting. I had a hard time ﬂowing and getting into the proper “ﬁghting zone.” With that being said, I prepared myself for this kind of situation too and was able to counter it to some extent.
Can you compare how you felt after your first fight of the day versus your last fight?
Tyler: At first I was nervous for my first fight, but after watching my division and beating my first opponent I began to feel confident. When I lost my 3rd fight I was very disappointed because I know I could’ve beaten my opponent and the person after him.
Chloe: First ﬁghts are always the rough ones. No matter how much we warm up…the ﬁrst ﬁght is always the worst. It’s the combination of unpredictability of when it will occur (5 hours or 5 minutes from now?) mixed with the uncertainty in yourself and how your body will react in the ring. I was speciﬁcally concerned with the high altitude. After my ﬁrst ﬁght, I knew it would not be an issue, but these are the types of hardships that are all part of that “ﬁrst ﬁght”. My last ﬁght of the day had as much of a joyous feeling that “winning” a medal would have… there was frustration for giving away a gold medal that was just out of reach. I’m working hard on training myself not to blame anyone but myself with the results of my ﬁghts…that way I can feel proud of my success but also take responsibility for my losses. With that being said, it was a good ﬁght, but a frustrating one that sparked a ﬂame in me immediately after to push myself harder for the next tournament.
During your medal fight, what thoughts were going through your mind?
Tyler: I just focus on one fight at a time. If it is semifinals I do the same thing with every fight. I listen to my coach, pray, and give my all. It doesn’t matter which fight, I do the same thing.
Chloe: I’m still sorting that one out 😉
Was there anything that you regret doing or not doing?
Tyler: No not really. I felt like I had done everything and worked very hard to get here. Maybe get on weight sooner so I didn’t have such a hard time cutting weight.
Chloe: There were a few opportunities in my last ﬁght where I should have kept a more aggressive and persistent pressure that might’ve snagged me a few more points. Other than that, I always kick myself for not trying as many new techniques as I should be. I tend to stick to kicks I know will score, but I want to try some more riskier ones.
Was there anything you were particularly proud of doing or not doing?
Tyler: I was proud of my performance. I didn’t like the results, but I knew that I did my best and that God has truly helped me.
Chloe: I’m proud that I persisted. I was dealt the diﬃcult side of the bracket and walked in as an underdog. This is a completely new world for me as it was only my second tournament as a senior and ﬁrst international one. I like being the underdog because there’s no obligation. I walked in with no reputation and walked out with a target on my back. I had a huge one in the Juniors division, but a Junior national title doesn’t mean much when you’re ﬁghting Olympians or top ranked athletes. So for me, this was a win. I may not be the champion of that tournament, but in my coach’s words we let them know, “There’s a new sheriﬀ in Towns!”
Do you have any specific goal for the next Pan-Am/Costa Rica Open?
Tyler: Yeah. Win, perform better, and kick butt.
Chloe: Next year I want those wins to come easier. I want to dominate my division, not win it. If I could walk out beating my opponents with signiﬁcant point gaps, well that would be ideal.
What advice do you have for young, aspiring taekwondo athletes?
Tyler: Even if you come up short, don’t give up. If you are fighting someone that seems better than you, keep fighting. If you fought Chuck Norris and managed to give him a bloody nose, even though you didn’t win, then that shows that you are improving.
Chloe: Never become complacent. It’s dangerous. Complacency is a dangerous excuse. It will trick you into thinking that you should stop; that you’re doing enough. Complacency is like swallowing a trash bag. It may ﬁll your stomach, but it won’t satisfy your hunger. It will leave you longing, thinking you should’ve done or could’ve done more and there’s no worse feeling than wishing you can change the past.
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Tyler: I would like to thank everybody. Chloe Towns for helping me in Costa Rica and with weight cutting. Master Vargas for coaching me in Costa Rica Open and for keeping me motivated. Master Vargas pours in his blood sweat and tears to help us get better and I wouldn’t get anywhere without his guidance and wisdom. Master Andrew Suh for coaching me in Pan Am Cadet Championships and taking the time to get to know me and the other athletes. I would like to thank my other teammates and coaches as well for motivating me. I would like to thank the people who donated money for my trip and finally I would also like to thank my family for supporting and getting me all the way to Costa Rica.
Chloe: I’m sure by now that my thanks are coming to the point of obnoxiousness, but I really can’t put enough emphasis on my gratitude for my coach and my parents. I can only hope that Master Vargas understands how much I appreciate him. I plan/hope for him to be my coach for every tournament I compete in for the rest of my life. And when I’m done with this sport, or when I’ve moved to a new chapter of my life, I’m sure I’ll still be using what he taught me. Outside of my parents, I’d say that he has created the Chloe you see today. There’s a large chunk of my mindset, my personality that he created and continues to add to. He has taught me more than just to ﬁght, but how to take on life as a whole. As for my parents, my mom will always be that shoulder to cry on and friend to vent to. She takes the good, bad, and ugly, but also gets the ﬁrst hug. My dad is the mega fan. His pride in me is one of the biggest reasons I work so hard. Without either of them I’d surely quit. My dad works tirelessly to help me pursue my dreams ﬁnancially and my mom is always happy to jump in to whatever she can for my immediate needs. It’s truly a team eﬀort.
Any other thoughts?
Tyler: Never underestimate the Lord and keep praying.
Tyler: For now I will be taking a break but I will definitely be going to the next big tournaments and giving my all.
Chloe: Canada Open in September.