Global Games: Brownsville autistic athlete sets sights on Vichy, France

dfwnewsa | April 1, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Global Games: Brownsville autistic athlete sets sights on Vichy, France

After winning national and international Tae Kwon Do competitions, third-degree black belt Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. of Brownsville has his sights set on the 2023 Virtus Global Games.

The games take place June 2 to 11 in Vichy, France, and represent world championship competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Juan Carlos Jr., who is autistic, has been honing his skills at the Olympic Tae Kwon Do Academy in Brownsville since 2010.

“He’s a five-time national champion, a four-time team member from Mexico and the United States. He’s competed virtually around the world, winning in Australia, Austria, Great Britain, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico,” coach Eduardo Rodriguez of the Olympic Tae Kwon Do Academy said.

Juan Carlos Jr.’s parents, Juan Carlos Sr. and Maria Dolores Sanchez of Brownsville, said they discovered Tae Kwon Do by chance one evening after dinner at what was then a wings restaurant next door to the school along Ruben Torres Sr. Boulevard in Brownsville.

From the time he was a small child, Juan Carlos Jr. has had an aversion to noise and struggled with socializing. His parents, understandably, were looking for activities that would help him, and his psychologist had recommended martial arts.

Olympic Tae Kwon Do Academy presents itself as a place that “transforms the lives of people with disabilities,” and Rodriguez said the school welcomes students with autism and Down syndrome.

The Sanchez family couldn’t be prouder of the progress Juan Carlos Jr. has made since embracing Tae Kwon Do, a K0rean martial art that stresses precision and courtesy in executing prescribed moves.

“If I had known Tae Kwon Do was going to help Juan Carlos so much I would have brought him here when he was little,” his mother said in Spanish, adding that it was a safe place where her son got physical exercise and learned how to interact with others.

She said he is conscientious about attendance, to the point of attending Zoom classes during the pandemic.

In that regard, the trainer Veronica Santana, who instructs virtually from Queretaro, Mexico, also has been an important influence, Juan Carlos Sr. said.

Now 23 years old and a graduate of Veterans Memorial Early College High School, Juan Carlos Jr. continues with Tae Kwon Do in addition to working out regularly at a local gym.

Demonstrating his Tae Kwon Do moves at the Olympic Tae Kwon Do Academy, he brought along a sack full of medals won in various competitions.

He and his father said his goal after the games in France is to compete in Tae Kwon Do at the 2024 Summer Paralympic Games in Paris.

But first there is the matter of financing the trip to Vichy for the Virtus Global Games. Juan Carlos Jr. has started a GoFundme page at

His father said the family is of limited means to a afford such a trip. Still, he does not want his son to miss the opportunity to compete on the world stage. They plan to do fundraisers of the more traditional type and “whatever it takes” to make the trip happen.

For additional information, go to Olympic Tae Kwon Do Academy’s Facebook page.

How to help

– Juan Carlos Jr. has started a GoFundme page at

– Visit Olympic Tae Kwon Do Academy’s Facebook page for more information

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