Devon Brown is flying high Down Under after winning gold at the Junior World Karate Confederation championships.
The 12-year-old Team USA member took first in kata, a form of karate that focuses on form as he punches and kicks while moving and turning.
The Pasco boy and his family spent several months holding fundraising dinners and car washes to pay for the trip. He and his dad, Shaun, headed to Australia last week while his mother, Kim, and little brother Collin stayed home.
And even more special than his individual win, the McLoughlin Middle School honor student also was chosen by coaches to be Team USA's Goodwill Ambassador.
Never miss a local story.
That meant he stepped in to fight alongside the New Zealand team in the kumite sparring division when one of that team's athletes was hurt and couldn't continue.
Devon's contribution meant the New Zealand team didn't have to forfeit its standing in the sparring division.
"He slid in, fought hard and won his match for their country," said Devon's grandmother Doris Barnett of Spokane. "We are so proud of him."
Devon told his mother on the phone Saturday from Melbourne that the win felt good.
"His goal has always been to stand on the podium wrapped up in an American flag and he did it, twice in fact because he also won the bronze medal in sparring," Kim Brown told the Herald.
"He also got to carry the American flag (into the arena) during opening ceremonies with two other kids. Anyone who knows Devon, knows that is an immense honor in itself."
Devon told his mom in an email from Australia that he gave the competition everything he had.
When he heard he'd won, he punched a victory fist in the air and ran to his dad, grinning from ear to ear. "I just couldn't believe it," he told his mother. Then when he flung himself into his dad's arms for a victory hug, the tears of joy began to flow.
"I was just so ... It was awesome," Devon told the Herald through his mom. "I wanted to win that medal for my mom, too, because I was gone on Mother's Day. I know for my mom that meant more than any gift."
As for the bronze medal, Devon said he was as proud of that medal as he was the gold.
"It was a good match," he said. "The judges are human and can't see everything. Some of the fights were very crazy."
He said he made many new friends from other countries, saw a whole new world in Australia, and gathered memories he'll never forget.
"(I'll remember) everything," he said. "Winning medals, of course, but also the coaches, the team, the other countries. And last night we saw koala bears, penguins, wallabies and a kangaroo."
But perhaps the most exciting thing about traveling halfway around the world was flying in an Airbus A380.
That means something to a kid who dreams of being a military fighter pilot.
"Do you know how awesome that is for a future pilot?" asked Devon, who'll be heading home later this week.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal