A karate enthusiast since early childhood, Angelina Roman has taken the sport by storm, earning a spot on the U.S. team before her 15th birthday.
There’s a new force to be reckoned with in the karate world. From her first well-aimed kick in kindergarten, teen phenom Angelina Romano has pummeled her way to the top of the sport in her age bracket, winning the national championship and earning a spot on the U.S. team.
Though the martial arts are now her passion, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight for Angelina.
“My dad sat me and my sister down, and he told us that we had to do karate to defend ourselves,” she says. “When we started, I kept telling myself to get this over with, but after each session was over, I started to like it more and more.”
As time went on, though, karate became her true calling.
“When I was a little bit older — and when I starting believing more in what I could do — I started liking it more, and I never wanted to stop doing this,” Angelina says.
That drive propelled her through the rainbow of belts — from white, red, yellow, and orange to green, blue, purple, brown and first-degree black —at the Illinois Shotokan Karate Club in Palatine, where she trains.
Along the way, she’s won scores of medals on the local, national and international level, culminating in victories at the junior international championship in April in Las Vegas and the USA Karate National Tournament in July in Schaumburg. The second win earned her a spot on the U.S. team, the day before she turned 15.
“It was such an unreal moment,” she recalls. “It was that on-top-of-the-world feeling. You just can’t describe it.”
Throughout her journey, Angelina has received support, motivation and inspiration from her sister, Christina, who also sports an impressive karate pedigree.
“She’s my biggest role model, and she has taught me everything I know,” Angelina says. “She made me want to stick with it because I had someone doing it with me.”
Although her sister has been a huge influence on her, Angelina definitely “marches to the beat of her own drummer,’’ according to their mother.
“Angelina has always been her own self,” Olga Romano says. “She’s not afraid to do things differently because it’s not the norm.”
That gives Angelina an edge, according to Olga, allowing her to control the outcome by fighting her own game while preventing her opponents from dictating how the match will go.
Christina isn’t Angelina’s only source of inspiration and motivation.
“The whole family was active in karate. We know what it’s about, and we know what it’s like to be on the mats,” Olga explains. “A lot of the reason the kids stuck with it was because we did it as a family.”
Angelina’s grandfather, Vince Romano, loves that his granddaughters are following in the footsteps of great-grandfather Harry Garippo, a high-school basketball ace; grand-uncle Bobby, a member of the Windy City Softball Hall of Fame; and their father and uncle, Rick and Marc, who were championship wrestlers in college.
“Everybody is proud of the girls in terms of what they have been able to accomplish,” Vince beams. “They obviously inherited the athletic skills of their ancestors.”
With her ascent to the national team, the pace has quickened, and the bar has been set much higher. She’ll be competing in the Pan American Championships in Ecuador in late August and the World Shotokan Karate-do Championship in Portugal in September. And October will find her in Chile for the World Karate Federation Championships.
How is it possible for someone so young to accomplish so much? Her mother has some thoughts.
“I am so proud of Angelina because of how hard she works and how dedicated she is with everything that she does,” Olga says. “She is very disciplined, she likes to get the job done, and she just likes to improve herself.”
The above appears in the September 2019 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.