Magdalena Zucek fights the pressure of being number one

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Magdalena Zucek fights the pressure of being number one

Magdalena (right) competes at the Pan American championships in Brazil in August 2018.

Magdalena (right) competes at the Pan American championships in Brazil in August 2018.

Magdalena (right) competes at the Pan American championships in Brazil in August 2018.

Magdalena (right) competes at the Pan American championships in Brazil in August 2018.

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Magdalena Zucek (10) enters the gym floor in Rio De Janeiro, competing in a tournament many dream of, but few experience. Being in front of thousands of people with all eyes on her is something she’s been used to since she was six years old.

Influenced by her parents to learn the sport as a means to protect herself, she is now traveling all around the world showing off her talents.

“My parents just kinda introduced me [karate] pretty abruptly…because they wanted me to able to protect myself in any rough situation,” she said.

Magdalena’s older brother was the first to do karate in her family, so she used him as a role model for her karate success.  

“She always wanted to do everything like her brother, and then…exceed,” Petra Zucek, Magdalena’s mother, said.

Magdalena is part of the Illinois Shotokan Karate Club  that participates in tournaments across the country and world, from Schaumburg, Illinois all the way to Brazil.

“I always go to nationals, which changes locations yearly. Then I do an international tournament every year in Vegas, usually in the spring,” Magdalena said.

Magdalena,  is constantly traveling from place to place for tournaments, whether in the U.S, or just 40 minutes away.

“What she accomplished is pretty impressive. It’s always fun to hear where she’s been and where she is going,” Caitlin Cahill (10) said.

Although she is currently in her offseason, her training does not stop. Four times a week, she trains with her coach at a gym, and then an hour at home after practice.

Before nationals, Magdalena dedicates most of her time at the gym. When the season picks up in the spring and summer, she trains every single day.  

“[I am always] waking up really early in the morning at 5:30 a.m., practicing for four hours a day,  and it’s rough but you have to do that for nationals,” Magdalena said.

Although she is extremely proud of all of her accomplishments, she has to deal with the pressure of everyone else’s expectations.

“If I go to a tournament, they just expect that I’m going to win…[and] I expect for myself to improve every time. It is really hard at the level that I’m at,” Magdalena said.

Magdalena still manages to take AP and advanced classes in school while also competing around the world representing the U.S. for girls karate.

“I used to find it pretty hard, but I’ve kind of figured out how to manage it…how to kind of juggle the homework,” Magdalena said.

Although Magdalena has found a way to manage the school work, when training season does come around, that’s when Magdalena really has to work hard to keep up. .

“[She is] missing days or weeks of school when she competes abroad. Making up all of the homework and tests sometimes seems never ending,” Ms.Zucek said.

Magdalena has been all around the world for her karate, representing Team USA four times in her career thus far. But, one tournament sticks out to her most clearly.

“I went to the World Championships last year in Italy and I got first place. It was a pretty special moment,” she said.

Magdalena considers this a significant part of her karate career, because despite of lack of experience at this level, she took away one of her many first place medals.

Her plan for the future is to expose herself to different tournaments to prepare for different competitions. But, she ultimately hopes to make it to the Olympics one day.

“I’ve learned how to really focus and take things seriously, so especially with school. It’s just gotten me into a different mind set. Karate has just helped me shape myself,” Magdalena said.

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