Ethan Fineshriber is an 11-year-old boy from Sandy, Utah who was diagnosed with autism when he was three. That hasn't stopped him from winning the number one place in the X-Treme Forms/Black Belt category of the American Tae Kwon Do Association's world championship held early this July in Little Rock, Arkansas.
His mother, Mara Fineshriber, got her son interested in Tae Kwon Do, in the hopes that it would help him get some exercise and learn to interact with others.
"He resisted at first, but once there, found he liked it," Fineshriber wrote in a blog for Autism Speaks. "Ethan had an immediate affinity for the sport and it caused those around him to want to make friends." As it turns out, Tae Kwan Do became a social and physical outlet that helped Ethan ease into the world around him. He had a knack for understanding the forms and moves of the art.
"For the first day it was just learning those new moves and it started getting me interested, like I can learn this stuff, and I can memorize this stuff and then I can do more of it," he said in an interview with Salt Lake City's Fox 13 news.
It wasn't before long that his instructors noticed their young pupil was becoming very, very good at it. That's when they suggested to his mother that he might do well in competition, so he tried it, taking home first place in a national competition.
That's when Ethan decided he wanted to win a world title.
It took him three years, but this July, he did exactly what he set out to do, winning with a perfect score in Little Rock and being cheered by his proud teammates. "These friends of his, they just rushed the ring and they hoisted him up on their shoulders and hugged him and congratulated him," his mom told Fox 13 News.
"Most people who meet him have no idea he has autism," Mara Fineshriber writes on Autism Speaks. Those that do, are in awe of how far he has come! He's learned a lot and loves to give back. He enjoys teaching martial arts and loves his many friends more than words can convey. I am one of the proudest mothers on the planet and I KNOW what it has taken to reach this place and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him."