Seven athletes from Bossier City have proven themselves internationally as top contenders in the martial arts world.
The Bellaire Wushu Academy competition team earned 17 gold, 12 silver and 7 bronze medals at the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship (ICMAC) this summer in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Led by head sifu Dr. Randy Harper, team members are Cameron Hale, Allie Harper, Mark Mascola, Winter Mascola, Bridgett Sepuvlado, Ryan Teppenpaw and Zach Teppenpaw.
Their goal going in, Harper said, was for everyone to win one medal. The team, however, proved themselves among the best athletes in the sport, competing against more than 400 athletes from around the world.
Earning 36 total medals is quite a phenomenon, Harper said.
“It is very rare to bring home that many medals with a team of seven athletes,” Harper said. “We knew going in the competition was going to be tough, but we set goals for each athlete and they knocked it out of the park.”
Harper said the team gained a lot of attention from both spectators and competing athletes. The “team in yellow jackets” was the buzz of the Las Vegas event, attracting a crowd of followers to each of their performances.
Bridgett Sepulvado, 23, won seven gold medals in Las Vegas, her second ICMAC appearance. She said competing against the best in the world has only motivated her to train harder and become more advanced in the sport.
Harper, who has been practicing martial arts since the 1970s, said that desire is something all seven team members share, a bond that holds this team together.
“They won in almost everything and still came back with higher goals and the desire to train harder,” Harper said. “We wanted to win as a team and we went to learn more. We did learn and we all came back more motivated. What we have here in Bossier City can compete with whoever is out there on the floor.”
Cameron Hale, 14, earned five gold medals, silver and a bronze; Allie Harper, 15, earned one gold and two silvers; Winter Mascola, 10, earned three gold and one silver. Ryan Teppenpaw, 15, earned three silver and two bronze while his twin brother, Zach, earned one gold, two silver and four bronze.
Mark Mascola earned two silver and a bronze.
Winter Mascola, 10, said they started training hard about six weeks out from the competition. That training, she said, was key to them performing so well.
Her dad, Mark Mascola, said the academy has helped him create a unique bond with his daughter, one he says can never be taken away. Mark is a Senior Kung Fu Instructor at Bellaire Wushu Academy. He began training as a teenager with Sifu Randy Harper.
This was his first competition appearance since overcoming a knee injury. He trained hard, like his students, to prove that dedication and trusting God will always overcome life’s obstacle.
“The key is to do your best and do it the way you were taught,” Mark said. “They performed their best and it shows. No one complained or made excuses. I’m ecstatic for them, even if they had brought home nothing. They have really helped me grow as a teacher.”
So what’s next for these athletes? The Bellaire Wushu competition team is now working toward an appearance at the “ALL STAR” Chinese Martial Arts Championship in Los Angeles, CA next spring.
Harper hopes that the appearance will springboard the team into the trials for the 2020 Olympic games.
“We are getting ourselves ready to represent Bossier City on a larger scale,” Harper said. “This team doesn’t realize how good they are. They are humble and root for each other. They are all about winning as a team.”
Bellaire Wushu Academy offers martial arts training in the Chinese Martial Art of Wushu traditional Kung Fu (My Jhong Law Horn) Chinese Kempo, Iss-Hogai, and Combat Martial Arts, (All Competition styles), Tai Chi (Taiji or Tai Chi Chuan) and has a proud, strong lineage.
Bellaire Wushu Academy is a Christian Fellowship and its instructors are dedicated to providing a high quality of teaching and training in Chinese Martial Arts. Classes are available for men, women and children.
All classes are held at the Bellaire Complex, 4330 Panther Drive, Bossier City, LA 71112. For more information, visit ww.bellairewushuacademy.org.