Sixth grader Olivia Yu from St. Thomas the Apostle School shined on the soccer field in the annual Knights of Columbus International Soccer Challenge, earning herself an impressive accolade.
Olivia was presented with the International Champion trophy in May after earning the honor with the highest score in her gender and age group for the overall competition. She’s one of only 13 winners around the world, and the only one from the Western U.S., making this a huge accomplishment for the soccer player.
The event, hosted locally by the Knights of Columbus (Kof C) Council 9287, is designed to showcase proficiency in penalty kicks specifically. It serves as an athletic outlet for kids aged 9-14 and is aimed at encouraging values like sportsmanship and healthy competition.
Since 2005, Kof C communities across the country and overseas have been coming together to engage with kids and provide them the chance to enjoy a sports competition.
10-year-old Olivia, who started playing soccer at age two, was one of three competitors who advanced to the final state level competition, where they each won a gold medal.
Olivia proved to be in total control of her penalty kicks, going after the highest corner each time to earn the most points in a display of athleticism and skill. With 17,000 Kof C chapters taking part in the challenge around the globe, there was plenty of competition.
“I had a lot of fun but I was super nervous,” Olivia said. “I was really proud of myself for doing so well and I did not think I would get that far.”
With the support of her family and the local Kof C chapter, Olivia was able to accomplish something few others her age have ever done.
“My mom gave me the letter and I read it in the car,” Olivia said. “I was super excited, proud and surprised.”
She enjoys the challenge of this team sport, especially the strategy involved in winning. Not one to shy away from an opportunity to get on the field, Olivia made everyone proud as she dominated the competition.
Olivia, who also played basketball at school this past year, was also thrilled because this is her first individual trophy.
“It feels amazing and I love the trophy. It’s really cool how it has my name on it,” Olivia said.
Olivia was recognized and honored following the May Crowning Mass in front of 550 fellow students. Local Chapter Officer Bob Hawthorne, Grand Knight Phil Maschue and Kof C State Deputy Tom Kalisz were on hand to congratulate Olivia and give her the trophy.
It was a memorable moment for Olivia, who hopes to continue her soccer pursuits in the future.
“Someday I want to play soccer professionally. I want to get called up to the Women’s National Team,” Olivia said. “I hope to one day win the Women’s World Cup.”