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Glen Ellyn

Youngest challenger and Glen Ellyn resident Carstens expects to medal

Glen Ellyn, IL

Carolena Carstens, 16, makes a back kick at her coach, Eric Laurin, in the training room in her family's Glen Ellyn home. Carolena will represent Panama in Taekwondo in the flyweight/under 49kg division at the London Summer Olympics. Carolena's mother is from Panama; the United States is not competing in Carolena's weight class. snapshots.mysuburbanlife.com/1499560
Carolena Carstens, 16, makes a back kick at her coach, Eric Laurin, in the training room in her family's Glen Ellyn home. Carolena will represent Panama in Taekwondo in the flyweight/under 49kg division at the London Summer Olympics. Carolena's mother is from Panama; the United States is not competing in Carolena's weight class. snapshots.mysuburbanlife.com/1499560

She can’t even drive a car yet, but Carolena Carstens already owns taekwondo medals from all over the world.

None of those previous experiences will compare to what the Glen Ellyn resident will encounter on Wednesday, Aug. 8 when the 16 year old participates in the 2012 London Olympics. She will be representing Panama where her mother, Elsa, was born and raised.

Carstens is one of 16 competitors entered in the 49-kilogram (107.9 pounds) weight class.

“I’m training super hard,” said Carstens, who has been working out in Canada, Korea and Jacksonville, Fla. among other places leading up to the games. “I don’t know if I will have another chance at this. Once I get there it will all sink in and I’m just going to try to take it all in.”

Her inclusion in the Olympics actually came as a bit of a surprise to Carstens and her family, with the World Taekwondo Federation choosing her as a wildcard pick. She had previously attempted to qualify in June of 2011 at the World Olympic Qualifier and later in the Pan-American qualifier in November where she lost in overtime to finish fourth (the top-three in each weight class advanced).

“When I found out, I was super excited,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. It was just a normal day and I got a phone call and they said that they had accepted my wild card. All of us were so happy, everyone was really excited forá me.”

And though Carstens, who will be one of only seven Olympians representing Panama, will be giving up years to all of her possible opponents, she isn’t going to England with a “just happy to be here” attitude.

“My expectations are to medal,” Carstens said. “Nobody expects anything but I expect something from myself.”

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