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August 12, 2011


McCoy Soldier military Taekwondo champion

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Even though a Fort McCoy Reserve officer competes against athletes who are often less than half his age, he didn’t let it stop him from winning the Army and Armed Forces flyweight titles in the Taekwondo competition.

Capt. Punnarin Koy, a member of the 1st, 340th Training Support Battalion (TSB) of the 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, said he continues competing because it makes him feel young.
PHOTO: Capt. Punnarin Koy (right), a Fort McCoy Soldier, participates in the U.S. National Championships for Taekwondo. Contributed photo
Capt. Punnarin Koy (right), a Fort McCoy Soldier, participates in the U.S. National Championships for Taekwondo. (Contributed photo)

“You have to slow them down because they’re faster than you,” Koy, 44, said of his younger competitors. “The satisfaction is to walk away win or lose and not get beat up by anybody.”

Koy finished the current round of competition by participating in the CISM games (Conseil International du Sport Militaire or International Military Sports Council) held in Rio de Janeiro. At that competition, he faced the best military Taekwondo martial art practitioners from throughout the world. Koy also had made the team in 2010, when he was a reservist in Minnesota. At that time, World-Class Athlete Program (WCAP) coach Sgt. 1st Class David Bartlett said Koy, then 43, was the oldest athlete he recalled competing at the CISM level.

Koy, who participates in the 58 kilo or 127.9 pound class, began his improbable journey to the top of the sport when he began competing at the intramural level as a student at the University of Minnesota. Many of the top competitors begin when they’re as young as 5 or 6 years old and already have about 15 years of experience when they are competing for spots, he said.

Many of the armed forces competitors are in the military’s WCAP, which allows them to focus nearly full time on competing. Koy said at Fort McCoy he still has to support the 181st’s mission, which is to conduct mobilization training for Soldiers deploying to support Operation New Dawn or Enduring Freedom.

Members of the 1st, 340th (TSB) and 181st, several Soldiers and the Rumpel Fitness Center staff have been very supportive and helped him prepare for the competition, he said.

Soldiers have provided workout partners to hold the equipment. Koy said fitness center staff members let him store his training aids and have opened up the gym to support his training routine. He tries to get in about 10-12 hours a week to maintain the elite-level status, and up to six hours a day in the weeks before the competition begins.

“The fitness center staff went to great lengths to support my training,” he said. “They did whatever I needed them to do.”
Koy’s workouts consist of sprinting and light jogs, practicing kicking movements and foot work drills, and sparring with other Soldiers. Taekwondo competition consists of using legs and feet and closed fists, he said.

“I did as well as I expected I could given the resources and training time available at Fort McCoy,” Koy said. “I wouldn’t have done as well as I did without everyone’s support. I am satisfied with what I could do to help Soldiers prepare to serve in Operation New Dawn and Enduring Freedom while I was training for the event.”

For Koy, this likely is the end of the road for his competition on the big stage for Taekwondo.

“I’m not completely closing the door,” he said. “I’ll be open to coaching people, and I’ll see what it’s like the next time the competition comes around.”

Koy, who is winding down his service at Fort McCoy, also has assisted Fort McCoy athletes in other martial-arts competitions, such as the extreme cage-fighting competition. He is on mobilization orders and will return to Troop Program Unit (drilling reservist) status in September. His civilian occupations include serving as a financial advisor, and he also has his own Taekwondo school. One of his students is 15 and made it to the U.S. team finals. She will be competing for a spot on the national junior team in the near future, he said.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here,” he said. “I’m returning to civilian life.”

(Some information in this story is from the Installation Management Command G-9 Family & Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program.)

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