In the dynamic world of taekwondo, where skill, discipline, and dedication converge, CJ Nickolas has emerged as a rising star. Hailing from Brentwood, California, the 22-year-old athlete has etched his name in history by becoming the first American man to win a World Taekwondo Championships medal since 2009.
The breakthrough moment occurred in Baku, Azerbaijan, where Nickolas secured a silver medal in the fiercely competitive 80kg division. His journey to the podium included a remarkable victory over Olympic bronze medalist Seif Eissa of Egypt in the semifinals, showcasing Nickolas’s prowess and determination. Although he faced a formidable opponent in the final—Italy’s Simone Alessio, the world’s top-ranked man in the division—Nickolas’s achievement was nothing short of historic.
Having started his taekwondo journey at the tender age of three, CJ Nickolas grew up immersed in the sport alongside his family. By the age of six, he was already competing, and by 11, he had developed a serious commitment to taekwondo. Despite facing challenges such as a rare anomaly in his C1 vertebrae called “os odontoideum,” Nickolas pressed on, competing in track and basketball during his high school years.
The turning point in his career came in 2018 when he claimed silver at the World Junior Championships in the 68kg division. Nickolas then transitioned to the senior ranks, securing a bronze at the Grand Prix in Paris in September 2022, a prelude to the city hosting the 2024 Olympics.
In a notable absence of male taekwondo athletes from the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics, Nickolas’s achievements are a testament to his dedication and perseverance. The young athlete has experienced both highs and lows, with losses in the round of 32 at the 2019 and 2022 World Championships but rebounding with a bronze at the Paris Grand Prix in 2022.
Nickolas’s commitment to excellence and pursuit of success led him to join the USATKD Academy team in Colorado Springs in 2019. His decision bore fruit as he clinched gold at the Pan American Games in Santiago in 2023, adding to his impressive list of achievements, which includes gold at the 2022 Pan American Championships and the 2021 Pan American Championships.
A multifaceted individual, CJ Nickolas is not only an accomplished athlete but also a film enthusiast, photographer, and singer. His favorite non-taekwondo athlete, Kobe Bryant, reflects his admiration for greatness in sports beyond his own. Nickolas’s favorite movie, Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” hints at his appreciation for art and storytelling.
As he gears up for the 2024 Paris Olympics, where he aims for gold, CJ Nickolas stands as a symbol of resilience, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of excellence. His journey from the quiet town of Brentwood to the global taekwondo stage is not just a personal triumph but a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes across the nation. With his mother as his biggest inspiration, CJ Nickolas carries the hopes and dreams of a nation as he looks to make history on the Olympic stage in Paris.