Carolena father is an American Airlines pilot based in Chicago, Illinois who meet his wife when he was stationed in Panama with the U.S. Air Force. Carolena’s Olympic event will be on Aug 8th.
Daily Herald May 27, 2012
Glen Ellyn, Illinois USA teen fights for Panama in summer
By Christopher Placek
At age 4, Carolena Carstens showed she might be a prodigy in the making.
She joined a kickboxing club in her hometown of Glen Ellyn; her parents thought it would be good for her physical
development. But Carolena not only liked it — she was good at it. That first foray into martial arts morphed into
participation in the traditional Korean sport of taekwondo, and Carolena began training at clubs throughout the area.
By 14, she was competing in international events.
Now, at 16, Carolena will compete in her sport on the biggest platform in the world: the Olympics.
She will represent Panama in the London 2012 Summer Games in July, the youngest of 128 athletes aiming for
the gold medal in taekwondo. She’s currently ranked 14th in the world and fourth in the Pan-American region,
which includes the Caribbean and North, Central and South America.
Taekwondo, Carolena says, “just became a passion, and I really fell in love with it. I had been doing it for such long
time, I wanted to step it up and go to the next level.”
Carolena is eligible for the Panamanian Olympic team by virtue of her dual citizenship, which she obtained three
Her mother, Elsa, was born and raised in Panama, and the Carstens family has made many trips there to visit
Carolena is one of only six athletes representing Panama and has become a bit of a local hero.
After it was announced in April that she had won a spot on the team, she arrived in Panama to a barrage of
cameras and microphones. Soon enough, her image was on the front of the country’s major newspapers and on
“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “It was a really good experience. I’m thankful to have these opportunities I have at such
a young age.”
Laureano Barría, a reporter at the Día a Día newspaper in Panama, said that although Carolena was unknown
before the Olympic announcement, she’s been getting significant attention of late.
“With all the publicity surrounding her trip to London, she is becoming more well-known,” Barría said.
How Carolena punched her ticket to the Olympics in the first place makes her story that much more special.
Article updated: 5/27/2012 4:29 PM