He’s only 9, but Maximus Bell has a huge goal in mind.
“I want to be an Olympian someday,” he said July 30 at his family’s Spring Valley home.
More specifically, he wants to compete in taekwondo during the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Maximus is taking steps toward that goal. He has a second-degree black belt and recently won his second national championship. And he’s ranked No. 1 in his division in the United States.
“There were two other kids right on his tail,” Maximus’ father, Ken Bell, said, adding that his son continued to hold the first-place position in the rankings.
Maximus took first place on the Fourth of July at the 2019 USA Taekwondo National Championships in Minneapolis, in the 8- to 9-year-old black belt under 30 kilo division.
Next year, Maximus — who’s going into fourth grade at the Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas — faces tougher competition, Ken said. He’ll move up to the next age bracket — 10- and 11-year-olds — and will compete in his first U.S. Open.
Maximus, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, started taekwondo — a type of Korean martial arts — when he was 3. He earned a black belt in October 2017 at age 7 and a second-degree black belt in November 2018.
For four years, Maximus has practiced five to seven days a week. And he participates in jiu-jitsu, another form of martial arts, four days a week.
At their home, the Bells turned an area of their living room into a practice space for Maximus. Blue and yellow mats cover the floor, and his equipment is stored in bins. The walls are decorated with dozens of medals and certificates, and photos of Maximus at taekwondo tournaments.
Maximus’ favorite part about taekwondo is “doing all the tournaments,” he said, because they’re fun. And he loves traveling. He has traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Detroit; Salt Lake City; Minneapolis ; Fort Worth, Texas; Rahway, New Jersey; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; and throughout Nevada and California.
“When we go to the different places, we try to make it educational for them,” Ken said.
Maximus especially loved exploring Washington, D.C., and kept asking to go back to the National Air and Space Museum, Ken said.
Maximus’ favorite subjects in school are science and math. He’s a straight-A student. Beyond his Olympic dreams, he wants to become a “sports doctor,” he said.
As for his personality, “you’re very shy until you get to the mats, huh?” Maximus’ mother, Dar Bell, said to her son July 30 at their home.
How he got started
When Maximus was 2, Ken started looking for a place where his son could learn taekwondo. He wanted his son to learn discipline, self-defense and to reap academic benefits.
But Ken couldn’t find any taekwondo studios that would take Maximus. He was told to come back when his son was 3.
Once he was old enough, Maximus started at a taekwondo studio in Henderson near where the family lived at the time.
“He did all right,” Ken said. “He got the splits down.”
While driving around, Ken came across Las Vegas Taekwondo Studio and went inside to talk with employees. He enrolled Maximus.
“He just clicked right from the start,” he said.
Las Vegas Taekwondo Studio referred the Las Vegas Review-Journal to Ken for comments about Maximus’ accomplishments.
When you have children, Ken said, you’re always looking for something that fits them — an activity in which they succeed like sports or music. For Maximus, that turned out to be taekwondo.
“He excelled straight away,” Ken said. Maximus won his first tournament, “and we never looked back. He’s way beyond his years.”