Athlete of the week: Gaven DeFilippo-Nickel - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Athlete of the week: Gaven DeFilippo-Nickel

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Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 11:00 pm

Forget trophy cases. Gaven DeFilippo-Nickel needs warehouse space.

Hundreds of karate awards occupy the 13-year-old’s house. The golden stalks thickened in July, when DeFilippo-Nickel defended his world title at the U.S. Karate Alliance World Championships in New Orleans.

No challenger scored against DeFilippo-Nickel during 10 matches. Despite the shutout, the amiable kid manages to stay modest.

“You’ve got to stay humble and not get complacent,” DeFilippo-Nickel said. “There’s lots of kids training just as hard, so you can’t take anything for granted.

DeFilippo-Nickel’s parents enrolled him in karate when he was 4, when day care proved intolerable. Now, the 6-foot, 174-pound kid trains four hours a day with Olympic dreams.

“I’m really grateful and look forward to getting to that next level — not just settling,” DeFilippo-Nickel said. “I like the challenge of everything.”

Home-schooling allows the reigning four-time national champion’s busy travel schedule and flawless grades to coexist like a Yin-Yang.

But DeFilippo-Nickel is also ready to joust for the starting quarterback job on Amphitheater’s junior varsity squad. Full circle, he credits karate for strengthening a gridiron mojo that already stirs Amphi head coach Vern Friedli.

“He’s got a limitless future,” Friedli said. “We’re expecting great things out of him.”

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