Athletes from a variety of different sports and age groups work with local trainer Derek “Spike” Richards at South Central Regional Medical Center.
One of the most unique, perhaps, is 17-year-old Clarke County native Braden Ivey, who has established himself as one of the top-ranked junior competitors in the World Karate Federation.
Earlier this month, Ivey traveled to Croatia to compete in an international tournament in which he placed seventh overall. Last weekend, Ivey took home two gold medals in Chicago at a trials event to make the U.S. Karate Team. The golds qualified him to compete in both the Junior Pan American Championship in Ecuador and the WKF Junior World Championship in Chile later this year.
Ivey, who began practicing karate at age 6, says he never imagined the sport would take him this far. He did, however, start to realize his potential while competing at a younger age.
“The first time I tried out for the U.S. Team at 12 years old, I wasn’t really expecting anything big,” he said. “I just went in wanting to give it my best shot and see what happens. I placed second that year and that really gave me confidence that I could do this. I’ve been working really hard ever since.”
Ivey has been training with Richards since May 2018. Whereas many of Richards’ athletes focus highly on strength training, Ivey is different.
“For me, speed is key,” said Ivey. “Being as quick and fast as possible is definitely the most important thing.”
And that definitely shows. Of all the athletes Richards has worked with, he says Ivey is by far the quickest he has ever seen.
“He’s just as strong as all these other guys,” said Richards. “I mean, he’s put over 150 pounds on his back squat, and he deadlifts and cleans with all these guys. But he is so ridiculously fast.”
Richards calls Ivey one of the most elite athletes in our region, though that may be difficult to fathom upon meeting him for the first time.
“Most of these guys thought he was a tennis player when he first showed up,” recalled Richards. “They didn’t even know he was one of the baddest guys around. He’s so humble that you don’t realize it until you really think about what he does. I mean, there are only a handful of guys his age in the world who can do what Braden does.”
Going forward, Ivey will have the opportunity to train as a member of the U.S. Karate Team to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. A more immediate goal of his, however, is to perform well in Chile later this fall.
“I’m really working toward the Junior World Championship, just to go and perform really well here,” he said. “Even finishing in the Top 10 would just be amazing.”