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Young champion Chelsea B. Magracia | Sat, Sep 15 2012 12:00 PM

In July, Merly Ortiz, 9, became the 2012 national champion at the state nationals for karate.

“I was surprised and excited because I never won three gold metals. I trained every day in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon.“ said Merly.

Merly competed at the Amateur Athletic Union’s Karate Nationals in Chicago. She was entered in the division with 8- and 9-year-olds and was competing against 15 to 20 girls in her age category.

Merly’s mother Cynthia Acosta decided to put her into karate when she was 4 years old.

“She was taking ballet, tap and hip-hop classes at the park and rec in Chula Vista. She started taking karate because she saw kids wearing the uniform so she wanted to take a class.” For the past three years Merly has been a part of the UCSD karate team. She practices ryuei-ryu, an Okinawan style of karate. Merly is a second degree green belt 5 kyu in ranking. She is the youngest member of the team and takes classes regularly Monday and Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Currently, Merly competes in local and out-of-town competitions.

Last year she qualified to go to the Junior Olympics in New Orleans. She came back with two bronze and one silver medal.

This year in July she went to state nationals and was named 2012 national champion for her age division. She won three gold medals in the competition.

“It took place in Chicago on the Fourth of July. We left San Diego the second and came back on the fifth. She only competed on the Fourth of July because it was an all-day event,” said Acosta.

“When training for nationals she really wanted to place. There is a lot of competition and I told her if you train hard and give it all you’ve got, you’re going to do well. And she did. I think that is going to help her in the long run with her life; if she has certain goals she is going to believe herself,” said Acosta

Merly wants to be a first grade or kindergarten teacher when she is older. However, karate is something she wants to keep doing even when she reaches black belt.

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