SJ youth wins Junior Olympic gold

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Aubrey Robinson
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
With constant permanent changes of station moves and parents away for various lengths of time, growing up in a military family can take a toll on a child; one young member of Team Seymour has mastered the military life-style by keeping her eye on the prize.

Aerieal Vineyard, 15 year old daughter of Tech. Sgt. Michael Vineyard, 335th Aircraft Maintenance Unit flight line expeditor, competed in this year's Junior Olympics and brought home two gold and one silver medal in several karate events.

"I was really nervous because I knew the Junior Olympics was the biggest karate tournament in the country," Aerial said. "It was pretty stiff competition but I still felt good knowing that I worked hard to get there."

The karate champion outmatched the competition and went on to win gold medals in kata, which are detailed choreographed karate movements, and weapons fighting. She also earned a silver medal in sparring, or free-form fighting.

Aerieal's passion for karate began in 2008 while living in Alaska. She tried several sports but couldn't quite find her niche until she gave karate a chance.

"A lot of movies have karate in them and it looked really fun," she said. "I've stuck with it because it's different from what everybody else does."

When Aerieal's father received orders to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., she knew her family would once again have to pick up, move and begin a new life in a completely different place. The thought of not having a place to continue her training concerned her, but reassurance from a family friend later brought Aerieal to the current school she calls home.

"Karate was the only thing I had when I moved here," Aerial said. "I didn't know anybody, so when I got home from school I would look forward to going to practice."

Throughout her rapidly blossoming athletic career, Aerieal's parents have always encouraged her to expand her talent through hard work and dedication.

"My parents spend a lot of money on my tournaments and they always take me to practice," Aerieal said. "They're always there for me and I really appreciate them."

Aerieal, her mother and younger brother traveled to Durham, N.C., for the Junior Olympics qualification competition where she faced off against other teens in the same karate division. At that time, her father was serving a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

"Karate has really grounded her," said Amy Vineyard, Aerieal's mother. "It's helped her out a lot, especially with her dad being gone as much as he is."

Fortunately, both her parents and brother were present at the Junior Olympics, the biggest competition of her karate career thus far. For them, the excitement they felt seeing her win a medal was almost indescribable.

"I was videotaping and shaking at the same time and caught the moment when she won," Amy said. "I actually started crying."

Although competing in the Olympics isn't quite on her radar yet, the Junior Olympian will test for her black belt in November and plans to continue working hard at what she loves to do.