Autumn Okuszka, Staff Reporter

Out of breath, Shelby LaBonty ‘19 looks up to see the referee raising her hand into the air. She could hear team USA celebrating, and it all seemed to play out in slow motion. She could remember all the hard work she put into this one moment. She is now a World Junior Continuous Team Champion from the WKC (World Karate and Kickboxing Commission) World Championships.

“I started karate when I was 6 and have been doing it since, along with kickboxing.” Shelby would never have thought at that age she would be where she is now. Along with her two coaches Korey and Konnor Kuppe from Macomb Martial Arts, she traveled all the way to Dublin, Ireland to compete in and later win the WKC World Championships.

If you think the trip to Dublin would be long, the training to be able to compete there was longer. “To make it onto team USA, you have to qualify at regionals in Toledo, Ohio. If you qualify there, then you go to nationals in Detroit. All the regional qualifiers from around the country compete in nationals, and if you place in the top 4 you make it to team USA. I now hold 2 national titles as well, but it was my first time competing in WKC.”

Shelby understood early on that competing in this competition was a once in a lifetime experience, so once she got to Ireland she made sure to take full advantage. “I went downtown into Dublin and to the Temple Bar. When I stayed in the hotel after my competition I hung around with all my new friends from other countries like Ireland, England, Scotland, and Canada.”

While keeping fun in mind, Shelby also remembered to keep her eyes on the prize. “Before my fights I felt very confident, you have to be. If you go into a fight doubting yourself then you already lost. When they raised my hand for gold, it wasn’t a shocker, it was expected.”

Along with the excitement that came with being champions, team USA was also rewarded for their win. “I received a world title and a gold medal, but the real reward is winning,” says Shelby.

She experienced so many things within a week, so she would love to go again if able. “I have to make team USA again in order to compete again next year, which will be in Orlando. I really loved it all. I enjoyed the tournament and meeting new people from around the world. It was one of the best experiences I’ve felt so far in this sport.”