If an athlete wins a championship once, maybe they got lucky.
If an athlete wins a championship twice, any thoughts of luck get evaporated.
If an athlete wins a championship three times, well, that does not happen too often. Only a select few athletes know what that feels like, regardless of sport or age.
Taber Jordan is one of them.
Jordan, 12, captured the gold medal in the Male Teen 1 Orange Light division of the American National Kids IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship, held July 2 in Las Vegas. For Jordan, who competes for and trains out of Sarasota's Vieira Martial Arts Academy, it was his third-consecutive gold medal at the event, though in different divisions each time because of age and belt differences.
The results seem clear: Jordan is one of the most skilled Brazilian jiujitsu athletes in the country, at his age but also in general. Yet Jordan said he has not thought much about what that means to him.
"I don't really know," Jordan said, then shrugged and smiled. "I guess it is cool."
Jordan has been too busy to think about such lofty thoughts. He is still training, this time in preparation for the 2022 Pan Kids IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship, to be held July 23-24 in Kissimmee. Jordan has made short work of his U.S. competition in recent years, but has had a bit more trouble at the Pan Kids Championships, finishing third in 2020 and 2021 against competitors from across the Americas. He's determined to finish first this time. Jordan spent last week training with other top athletes in Fort Lauderdale to ramp up the difficulty level, getting in as much useful experience as he could. Jordan said he focused especially hard on guard passes (getting past an opponent's knees while they are in the the guard position and establishing a more dominant position, which scores points). After guard passing, Jordan said, he is set up to perform a bunch of different submissions.
Jordan said he does not know why he's been tripped up at the Pan Championships in the past. There have not been competitors using moves he has never seen or anything like that. He just needs to perform better, he said. He believes he has the skills to bring home gold if he does. He showcased those skills most effectively during the 2021 Nationals, when he was put into multiple submission holds by his opponent in the championship match but managed to escape them all.
As fierce as Jordan can be in a BJJ contest, he is as soft-spoken outside of it, not wanting to brag about his own skills. He does open up about the intricacies of the sport, like the various holds that Jordan uses to his advantage. Jordan said he likes to use maneuvers that are less commonly taught so other kids don't know how to counter them, even if they are harder for him to execute.
As the sport has grown more serious — Jordan said his instructors don't play many games during his training sessions like they do with younger kids — Jordan has grown more attached to it. He could have stopped after one championship and no one would have batted an eye; most kids, in fact, quit the sport young after learning the basics. But Jordan has no plans to stop. He wants to be the best he can be, he said. His coaches at Vieira Martial Arts Academy believe his potential in the sport is unlimited as long as his passion stays alight and he keeps competing.
He already has at least one diehard fan: his mother, Jocelyn Jordan, who is proud of not only his strides in BJJ but of his strides in life.
"I think he has matured a lot in the last three years," Jocelyn Jordan said. "He understands what it takes to get things done. He knows how to manage his time. He's doing a lot of training and he's still a straight-A student in school."
Taber Jordan said there are times when he gets tired and does not feel like going to practice his craft, but he goes anyway. Such is the life of a champion; there are truly no days off if you're trying to be the world's best, even at 12 years old.