Maple Grove taekwondo athlete hopes to get leg up on competition at Paris Olympics

For Alasan Ann, the Korean martial art of taekwondo is a way to express himself.

Now the master who teaches his students to discover the black belt within is going for the gold.

"I'm still in shock that I can say that I'm going to the Olympics. It's been my dream, ever since I was 12 years old and just having the actual dream become reality is still kind of unreal to me," said the 23-year-old Maple Grove native.

Ann has been training with Grandmaster Eui Lee at the World Taekwondo Academy for the last 16 years. After making the U.S. national team several times, he recently won a continental competition in Africa to qualify for the Summer Olympics,  where he will represent the West African nation of Gambia, which is his father's home country and where he holds dual citizenship, in hopes of bringing Gambia its first ever Olympic medal.

"It's the first ever taekwondo athlete to qualify to ever just go to the Olympics for Gambia as well. So it's history in the making. It's an honor to be able to do that," said Ann.

Ann's Olympic dreams were almost over before they started when he was shot in the leg in Minneapolis last November.

He spent several weeks in the hospital recovering, but he was eventually strong enough to travel to Senegal for qualifications. 

"It was scary. You train so hard for something and it can be taken away just like that," said Ann.

Ann hopes to become a flag bearer at the Summer Games, but bringing home an Olympic medal for taekwondo would be a real kick. 

"It just tells you that once you really work for something, you really believe in it, no matter what the outcome or whatever all that adversity is. You really can make your dreams come true," said Ann.

Ann plans to leave Minnesota to train in France in July, and he'll compete in the Olympics in August.