Sophomore biology and psychology major Sam Weichert is not someone you would want to run into in a back alley.
She is training for a bid to the 2012 Olympics for tae kwon do.
Last year, Weichert was offered an invitation to compete for an Olympic bid. She was unsuccessful, but didn’t give up on her dream.
Weichert started practicing tae kwon do when she was four years old.
“I was so young that I think it was just something to do,” she said. “Your parents go crazy signing you up for extracurriculars and that was just it.”
Weichert said the decision to stick with the sport came easily.
“I stick with stuff that I’m good at,” she said. “I think I was just innately good at it, so that made it not as boring as soccer, where all I wanted to do was pick dandelions.”
These days, Weichert is more focused on her dream than ever.
“It’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job,” she said.
Weichert trains everyday. Her regimen is a balance between cross-training and traditional tae kwon do training.
She keeps herself on a strict diet to maintain her weight class and stays in constant contact with her coach of 16 years.
Though she does take tae kwon do seriously, Weichert said people often get the wrong impression of her.
“I am a student first and foremost, then I am looking to have fun,” she said. “It’s more important for people to know that about me than to get scared away or hone in on the Olympics.”
Sophomore Jordan Gill, a friend of Weichert, said Weichert has found a good balance.
“Sam is quite possibly the most driven person I have ever met,” Gill said. “But that certainly doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know how to have fun. The girl is hysterical, but also knows when it is time to be serious.”
Sophomore Ashlynn Morrill, one of Weichert’s roommates, said Weichert is hilarious and genuine while still very dedicated and hardworking.
“She works out more than any person I know,” Morrill said. “She sets her goals really high and works hard to meet them.”
Sophomore Jen Schaffer, another of Weichert’s roommates, said there is something about Weichert’s personality that inspires her to be a better person.
“Sam has this contagious spark to her,” Schaffer said. “You can’t really explain it. Sam is Sam, through and through, and no one will ever change her.”
Schaffer said she believes this inspiration comes from Weichert’s athletic mindset.
“Being an athlete, you have to have discipline and know your responsibilities,” she said. “Sam works every single day to better herself as an athlete and I think it helps make her into a better person.”
Weichert said that her training as an athlete becomes even more rigorous during summer break, when she usually spends from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. training in the gym.
This upcoming summer also brings the qualifying tournaments for the Olympics.
“I start local, then work my way up to nationals, then work my way up to internationals,” Weichert said. “Any one of the tournaments could be the last one.”
If she performs well at the international level, Weichert could be extended another chance to compete for a bid to the summer Olympics.
Weichert said last year’s invitation to compete for a bid was the highlight of her tae kwon do career.
“Trophies are nice, but I think being recognized is more important than anything you could take home,” she said.
Even if she isn’t given a bid, Weichert said she is pleased with her career so far.
“If the Olympics happens for me, then it happens,” she said. “But if it doesn’t, I’m content with everything I’ve done so far. It won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t happen.”
Gill said Weichert’s Olympic dream is inspiring to her and others.
“I think a lot of us tend to limit ourselves to what’s easy or attainable in our minds,” she said. “Sam has shown me that it’s OK, and we all should strive for what we truly want, not what seems just within our reach.”
But Weichert isn’t going to let her Olympic dream define her as a person.
“I don’t think [the Olympics] defines any athlete,” she said. “I think its about the passion you have for the sport. I am very passionate about it.”