"My mom and dad, they just said, 'Hey, I prefer you qualifying for the Olympics than not qualify for the Olympics. So we don't go, we will support you from here,' " Ariel Torres tells PEOPLE

By Lindsay Kimble
July 20, 2021 11:51 PM
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Ariel Torres
Ariel Torres
| Credit: Jaime Lopez/Getty

Ariel Torres won't have his own personal cheering section at the Tokyo Games — but his parents will still get front-row seats.

Speaking to PEOPLE earlier this year about the decision by Tokyo Olympics organizers not to allow international — and now local — fans due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 23-year-old karate champion said, "It hurts a little bit, but my mom always told me, 'Hey, everything happens for a reason.' "

The Team USA athlete has a solution, though, to make sure his family still feels like they're with him in Japan when karate makes its Olympic debut.

"My mom and dad, they just said, 'Hey, I prefer you qualifying for the Olympics than not qualify for the Olympics. So we don't go, we will support you from here,' " the 23-year-old says, noting that his parents haven't traveled with him for competitions for some time, so he's used to it.

He adds to PEOPLE, "I would love to see them there. But when I get back, I make blogs. I make video blogs on my travel and my experiences. And I started [making videos] for my mom and for my dad, I did it in English so other people can see it."

Torres explains that in the past, he has watched the vlogs with his mom and dad and translated, letting his parents "live the exact experience."

"I'm glad that I can just show them, you know, 'Hey, this is because you guys sacrificed so much for me and now I'm able to do this,' " Torres says.

Karate is one of five sports added to the Summer Games schedule. Torres competes in the modality kata, which sees competitors perform pre-approved choreographed movements. A team of judges will vote on which of 20 athletes — 10 in the men's competition, and 10 in the women's — are winners. Torres' final qualifying event for the Olympics was in June.

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Torres says he's so grateful for everything that karate has brought to his life, including the ability to experience "new things, new people, new cultures, new everything."

"And it's thanks to [my parents] taking me to karate and supporting me," says Torres.

Karate events begin at the Tokyo Olympics Games on August 5.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.