NPR's Howard Berkes reports on two Olympic taekwondo hopefuls
who're also friends. During competition last week to determine who
would become a member of the Olympic team. Esther Kim officially
bowed out of her final match with Kay Poe, who had dislocated her
knee. Kim's action has ensured Poe's place on the team...and her
own place as cheering spectator. (4:07)
"Esther Kim and Kay Po met 11 years ago at a Halloween party
at a TKD school in Houston. Po was six then and dressed like a Ninja
warrior; Kim was eight and a pirate. They have been best friends
and TKD teammates since. Po is considered America's best hope for
a TKD medal at this summer's Olympics in Sydney Australia. Both
tried to qualify for the Olympic team last Saturday in Colorado.
They fought each other for the first time ever. Po won their first
match. Kim won her remaining bouts with other fighters making it
to the finals. She watched from the stands as Po fought her last
match of the preliminary round.
"She clashed with the other girl and her knee dislocated and
then when she finally fell on the floor her knee was put back into
place. I was in the crowd and I remember we caught eye contact so
fast. And she looked at me and she started shaking her head No and
she started crying and it looked like she was thinking I am not
going to be able to do this-I'm going to give up, I'm not going
to be able to do this."
The two had shared Olympic dreams as long as they could remember.
Esther Kim shouted encouragement from the stands.
Kay you can do this; you can do this. Focus, focus it's in your
head. Fight with your heart, fight with your heart. And she got
up and she fought with so much heart and she won that fight putting
us both in the finals.
It would be Kay Po against Esther Kim again. The winner would go
to the Olympics. But Po was in pain. Still she insisted on fighting.
She was lying on the floor. She was crying. She like, "We're
just going to fight, we're just going to fight. I looked at Kay.
How are you going to fight-you can't even stand up. You know it's
not fair for me to walk into the ring having two legs and you have
one leg and fighting you. And I was scared too. What if we got into
the ring and we clashed hard enough where she didn't even have a
knee any more so I said let me bow out to you. I told her 'Please
don't argue with me; please just accept it because I want this.
Kim signed a form officially bowing out of the match forfeiting
to her friend, giving Po the spot on the Olympic team. The referee
then raised Po's hand in victory; Po raised Kim's hand. The two
then embraced in tears.
I told her this has always been my dream. You have known it's always
been my dream. But basically I think I'm handing my dreams over
For the first time ever Kim says she feels like a champion. She
explains her decision by describing her friends fire in the ring.
Kay Po fights with a lot of heart Kim says and always has, implying
she can't always muster that herself. Po says her doctors are confident
she'll be ready for the Olympics in September.
I think I feel blessed to have such a wonderful friend that would
make such a sacrifice for me. And it's going to be easier for me
whenever I get tired during practice or I don't feel like working
out I'm going to have to remember that this isn't just for me. I'm
living out her dream as well. Since she's given me the opportunity
to do it I better work my butt off.
Kay Po and Esther Kim say they hope to travel to the Olympics together,
Po competing in TKD, and Kim cheering her friend on."