Salutes & Awards

June 1, 2012

Dancer, actress morphs into fighter

by Airman 1st Class David Owsianka
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Athena Austin, daughter of retired Master Sgt. Steven Austin, 56th Maintenance Group load crew member, performs a jump kick during the 4th round of the Muay Thai Atom weight championship April 17 at Celebrity Theatre. Austin won the championship in five rounds by a unanimous decision.

When someone says the word fighter what may come to mind is someone who is big, strong or muscular.

Well, if those are the only things that come to mind, you will be amazed when meeting the 5’1″, 105-pound Muay Thai atom weight contender Athena Austin, daughter of retired Master Sgt. Steven Austin, 56th Maintenance Group load crew member.

Growing up, Austin was never into sports. She was always dancing in the studios or acting out a scene in theaters. She took up Muay Thai two years ago as a way to stay in shape.

“I didn’t realize that it was an actual fighting sport until I researched it,” Austin said. “About a month into the training, my coach got me into sparring; I did well and decided to give it a shot.”

Since starting, she has been in four bouts; two smoker and two amateur fights. In smoker, the fighters would wear head gear and shin guards. Amateur and smoker are three two-minute round contests; title fights are five two-minute rounds.

Her first fight was a smoker in Las Vegas, only eight months after beginning to learn the sport.

“Going into it, I was nervous and constantly thought, ‘Am I ready? Maybe I should just stop and go home,’” Austin said.

Even though she lost the bout, it was a night she will never forget.

“It ended up being fun,” she said. “Even though I lost by a split decision, I believe it was still a good learning experience.”

Other fighters who train with Austin believe she has what it takes to make it to the next level.

“When Austin fights she is a high-intensity firecracker,” said Vinn Xayaveth, a fellow Muay Thai fighter. “Once she lets her hands go, she is hard to deal with.”

Not long into her Muay Thai career, Austin was given the opportunity to contend for the title belt on her fourth fight. She had two months to get ready for her biggest fight yet.

Her training consisted of running, strength and conditioning, sparring sessions, and pad and bag work.

“The training was good preparation for the fight,” Austin said. “Even though I am an amateur, my coach trains me on a professional level.”

As the bell rang to start the championship fight April 7, the fighters were off. It was a fast-paced fight from the get go; with both fighters wanting to prove their worth.

“From start to finish it stayed the same up-tempo pace,” Austin said. “All of my training leading up to the fight came into play.”

With both competitors unable to win by knockout, the fight went to the score cards. And by a unanimous decision, Austin became the new Muay Thai Atom weight champion.

“Once I heard my name being announced as the new champ, it made me feel like all of the training I endured, and all the bumps and bruises I received was worth it,” she said.

After becoming the reigning champ, Austin has decided to continue fighting.

“My goal is to turn pro, whether it’s in Muay Thai or mixed martial arts,” she said. “It would mean a lot because it would mean all of my hard work paid off, and I would be able to do something I enjoy doing.”




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