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Gainesville teen made a mark on big stage with bronze at World Karate Championships
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Carter McCaleb won a bronze medal at the 2016 World Karate Championships in Dublin, Ireland - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

It was a month before the World Karate Championships, when Carter McCaleb got a package delivered to his house.

He opened the package and a smile grew on his face. McCaleb was immediately elated knowing the work that went into earning what was inside.

“I was all jacked up and hyped,” McCaleb said.

McCaleb received his Team USA Uniform to compete in the World Karate Championships in Dublin, Ireland. The 17-year-old has done a lot over the years to get to where he is now.

McCaleb, who attends Chestatee High, started karate when he was 5 years old at Haymore’s United Karate in Gainesville. Now he can say he’s placed among the cream of the crop in his sport. McCaleb took home bronze at the World Karate Championships in Dublin, Ireland.

His parents signed him up with martial arts lessons and has been in love with it ever since. McCaleb earned his black belt when he was 12 years old. Since then he has been working hard to get better. He would train for hours at Haymore’s studio, running for miles every day to keep in shape.

The journey wasn’t easy.

He overcame much adversity over the course of his career, finishing one point shy of a World Karate Championship appearance two years earlier. McCaleb learned from that loss that he needed to work harder to perfect his craft and improve where he finished the previous year before.

“I was pretty upset because it was so close, it was right there,” McCaleb said. “But I took it as a learning opportunity,”
In March 2016, he started training to make it to the World Championship in Ireland.

This time, things were looking up. The journey started on a strong note.

He earned a first-place spot in nationals to qualify for a trip to the World Championships. But a week before worlds, the unexpected happened.

“I was just fighting and I threw a kick and my back leg which was my support leg just slipped and my knee cap just popped out of place,” McCaleb said of his last training session before worlds.

McCaleb had a partially torn patella. His parents took him to physical therapy during that final week before going to Europe. After therapy, he was cleared to go to worlds with a brace. At the end of the week he flew out to Dublin. The day after he landed he had in weigh-ins. Later during that week it was time for his first match in Worlds.

“I was really nervous, I was nervous that my knee would have gotten hurt, I was nervous that I was going to mess up,” McCaleb said.

His first match went back and forth, trading blows with one another until his opponent had McCaleb right where he wanted him: with McCaleb in a four-point hole. But McCaleb rallied to tie it. In the last five seconds, his opponent landed another blow to move on to the gold-medal match.

With his face full of disappointment, McCaleb left the mat and isolated himself from the crowd in order to calm himself down. There were only four people who competed in his age group for point fighting. The gold medal winner beat McCaleb in the first round.

Due to the amount of people who placed in worlds, McCaleb waited for an hour before his bronze medal was presented. Despite the outcome, he was happy to come away with bronze.

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