Halo Canezo of Troy stands atop the podium at the Dominican Open Taekwondo competition after receiving her gold medal at the event.

Halo Canezo of Troy stands atop the podium at the Dominican Open Taekwondo competition after receiving her gold medal at the event.

Photo provided by Amul Gorkhali

Troy taekwondo students shine on the world stage

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published March 23, 2024


TROY — Four Everest Taekwondo students were recently recognized by the Troy City Council for their recent and upcoming achievements, including at the national and international levels.

“I started taekwondo when I was 4 years old at a different school,” said taekwondo student Halo Canezo, who is a freshman at Troy High School. “Around COVID, I went to Everest. It was very different, so it was different to spar. I was scared of sparring at first and wasn’t confident in myself, but once we started, my coach and teammates helped show me I had potential in this sport. … It feels good to train, and this is a place where I can show that I am good at something.”

“Halo had a huge year. She made the National Team for the second year,” added her coach, Amul Gorkhali. “She won several competitions, won the National Athlete of the Year for Amateur Athletic Union for taekwondo and Michigan Athlete of the Year for taekwondo. She also will be going to Mexico to represent the national team. She got to go to the Pan Am Championship last year, which is the biggest competition she can go to at her age, and she won bronze there. She competed in the under 41 kg category.”

Viktoria Chernolutsky, a junior at International Academy, was another of Everest’s recent champions.

“Viktoria has possibly the biggest accomplishment,” said Gorkhali. “She won the team trial in January, so she will represent the United States in Korea at the Junior World Championship in October. She is the first high school junior to do so from the state of Michigan. She competed in under 49 kg.”

“My parents introduced me to taekwondo. When I started, I didn’t even know what it was. When I started competing, I got really into it. When I got to Everest, it became part of my life. It’s not just a sport, it’s a big part of my life. It’s brought my family closer, and I have made so many friends,” said Chernolutsky. “I think the key is finding your motivation. You need to find what drives you. Taekwondo was the sport I found that I connected with the most. Nothing else pushed me as hard, but I found the passion to keep going and achieve.”

Kyle Winnie, a sixth grader at Parkway Christian Middle School, and Sophia Derocha, an eighth grader at Larson Middle School, were also recently recognized.

“Sophia won nationals last year as a 12- to 14-year-old. She won the 2024 Michigan state championship individually in her division, which was junior under 49 kg, which is her weight category,” said Gorkhali. “Kyle is currently almost 12 years old, and he won nationals last year and won team trials, so he won a spot to become a national team member. He is the first 10- to 11-year-old from Michigan to earn a spot on the national team, and at the end of this month he will go to Mexico to compete with the national team. … We had Michigan Athlete of the Year at the state competition March 9. He competed in under 41 kg. … These four students are ranked as some of the top athletes in taekwondo in the country.”

Gorkhali believes that his students have achieved because Everest started with a strong foundation and then reinforces it with strong bonds between students.

“Our background has started with our dad,” he explained. “He is one of the top coaches in Nepal. He has had students go to the Olympics (and) win gold medals at the Asian Games, so we had his guidance and learned from him. … My brother, Anmol Gorkhali, is our other coach (at Everest) and won Coach of the Year from the (Amateur Athletic Union). We compete a lot more than most other schools, and while most schools have one or two students competing at that world-class level, we have 13 able to compete at that international level. That helps them push each other, teach each other and grow together. We travel together, we see each other like a family. We love to stay together in a big Airbnb or something. We love doing things together outside of taekwondo. It’s more than just a team.”

“My favorite moment is from the big tournaments when we are traveling as a team. Afterward, whether there are good or bad results, I love sharing those moments as a team,” said Canezo. “We’re going to the President’s Cup this week in Costa Rica, which lets us possibly qualify to the Pan Am competition. It’s a huge competition, and I feel like we have a chance to make it.”

Chernolutsky said that the aspect of a strong team also has helped her maintain confidence and push herself to new heights.

“My favorite moment was at a competition either right before or right after, and I hear the crowd, and my family is waving at me and my team is cheering for me,” she said. “Getting to stare back out … it is so amazing. It shows me I have a huge family and a great team who is helping me accomplish my dreams.”

Both Canezo and Chernolutsky said that taekwondo has taught them valuable lessons like determination, courage and the value of hard work.

“In the fall I’m competing in Korea on the world stage,” said Chernolutsky. “I am proud to represent Everest, Michigan and the United States. Taekwondo has changed my life. I fought last year with a broken finger. This sport has taught me determination. I received skills like time management, treating others well and discipline.”

“A lot of people don’t have confidence in themselves, but you can ask teammates or those helping you to back you up or give you support,” said Canezo. “When you’re in the ring, there’s a lot of pressure. In those moments, knowing that you have people behind you and you’ve practiced, can mean so much.”