KENILWORTH, NJ – Afonso Santos may be just 13-years-old, but he’s already setting his sights on the Olympics.

Santos recently placed third in the 2017 USA Karate Junior National Championships and made the USA Junior National Team.

“It’s a lot of practice," Santos said. “I like how all the work that I put in shows in the tournament.”

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Santos started practicing karate when he was five-years-old. He’s currently a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do and a first-degree black belt in Goju-Ryu.

“It’s hard,” Santos’ mother, Silvia, said. “He trains a lot.”

Santos currently competes on the Florida team, for which he was recruited by karate champion Ariel Torres. To practice, he trains weekly via skype with the rest of the team and travels to Miami when possible. Additionally, he competes nationally and internationally, most recently for the USA Junior National Championships in South Carolina.

“My goal is to become national champion and Pan-American champion,” Santos said. “And when I’m old enough I want to go into the Olympics.”

Santos said he is encouraged by Master Jean Paul Panizza of Karate World, who’s trained him since the beginning.

“He’s a great guy,” Santos said. “I’m happy that he saw the potential in me because it’s gotten me really far.”

Santos’ mother echoed his sentiments, saying that Panizza saw the potential in her son since day one.

“Master Jean Paul Panizza at Karate World is the reason he’s gotten this far,” she said. “He’s believed in him since he was five-years-old. He pushes him a lot. He’s one of the coaches who always believed in him and his hard work.”

Next week, Santos will begin 8th grade at David Brearley Middle School. He also plays soccer, runs track and likes math. His discipline and hard work is what gets him far, his mother said.

“I’m very proud of him,” she said. “He puts a lot of hard work in when he wants to reach something. He’s very focused, very responsible and a hard worker.”