As Team Georgia competed at the 2017 World Martial Arts Games in Orlando last month, Hurricane Irma was threatening the city.
It wasn’t a distraction for team members who train at The Brick on St. Simons Island, who brought home 26 Gold, 14 Silver and 9 Bronze medals at the competition.
“It was actually not too bad. A lot of people stayed in Orlando during the hurricane,” said Tavia Harrison, owner of The Brick.
The storm kept people indoors, but team members weren’t there to see the tourist attractions. Instead, the athletes focused on their matches and how their individual performances would contribute to the team’s overall score.
“When you do martial arts, it’s different because you’re mainly competing against yourself,” she said. “It’s a brave thing to stand up in front of another person and say ‘give it your best shot.’"
Harrison said she wasn’t surprised the team competed so well against teams across the country and from other nations as far as Great Britain, Spain, Germany and India.
“For our school, almost all them are nationally ranked,” she said of her athletes. “I expected them to be successful.”
The team prepared nearly a year for the competition, which probably took a lot of discipline for some of the team members. And it wasn’t just the rigorous physical training individually and as a team.
The athletes were also on a special team diet which included no sugar, Harrison said.
The trip to Orlando was relatively inexpensive compared to the trip to Vancouver, Canada in 2014. The team raised $35,000 to help pay for the trip.
It’s going to be even more challenging to raise funds for the World Martial Arts Games when they are held two years from now. Harrison estimates the team needs to raise $50,000 to send the team to New Delhi, India. It will cost about $2,500 a person, she said.
“I’ll check with the team in January to see if they’re interested in going,” she said. “We would hope to go to India. We’re competing for our country."