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Former Coastsider Katherine Shai tore through the competition at the World Team Challenge wrestling tournament in Raleigh, N.C. She is aiming for the 2020 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy Justin Hoch

Last month, wrestler Katherine Shai dominated in the World Team Challenge Tournament in Raleigh, N.C., bringing her one step closer to her goal of making it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

The former Coastsider, known to many by her maiden name Fulp Allen, avenged a U.S. Open finals loss to Tiare Ikei, taking down her opponent 10-0 in the first round and 2-0 in Round 2 and recording a tech and a pin.

Shai’s next step is the Final X series in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday, where she will face 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt. The winner of Final X will be on the USA Wrestling World Team competing in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, in September. 

Shai grew up wrestling on the coast, starting in elementary school with Half Moon Bay club teams, then excelled for three years at Cunha Intermediate and four at Half Moon Bay High schools. Her late father, Lee Dale Allen, wrestled in two Olympics for the United States, and Shai has Olympic aspirations as well.

“When I was a kid, I announced to my mother that I wanted to go to the Olympics, I just hadn’t decided which sport yet,” she said. 

She missed a spot at Rio de Janeiro by a hair, coming in third at the 2016 Olympic Trials. 

Afterward, Shai took 2 ½ years off of training. She had a baby in 2017 and wasn’t sure if she would be able to return to the wrestling world. But after some time off, she knew she was ready for a comeback.

“Quite honestly, I missed the feeling of wrestling,” she said. “My mind and my body missed the hard combat, the grueling training and the feeling of being completely in your own element of flow.”

Nine months ago, Shai started training full time again under coach Steven Paprocki in Westminster, Colo., not far from her home in Denver. 

Shai still has several big steps ahead of her before becoming an Olympic hopeful. 

She must win at Final X, win in Kazakhstan, then win the Olympic Trials tournament next April to become the Olympian at 53 kilograms, or 117 pounds, for Team USA.

Shai is keeping her Olympic dreams in perspective. When asked about following in her Olympian father’s footsteps, she says she believes she already has.

“He loved wrestling and gave back to the sport and to others. He never taught his wrestlers that the only value as an athlete was by becoming an Olympian,” she said. “It’s my goal, and I will fight for it, but it will never have any bearing on how I choose to impact the world.” 

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