A taekwondo champion from Winnipeg is heading to the Olympics.
Black belt Skylar Park qualified last month for the 2020 Tokyo Games, and the 20-year-old — who has been practising taekwondo since before she could walk — couldn’t be happier.
It’s a trip she’s been dreaming of her whole life, after all.
“I was born into this sport,” the soon-to-be Olympian told Global News Morning on Tuesday.
“My whole family does it… I kind of say I was forced into it, but I fell in love with it and to this day I love it.”
Park, who was seven when she earned her black belt, is among the highest-ranked taekwondo fighters in the world — and she has been on a winning streak.
She finished on the podium at her first three international events last year and reached the podium in eight of her 11 events in 2018.
Her recent titles include a bronze medal at last year’s World Taekwondo Championships, silver at the 2019 Pan American Games, gold at the 2018 Pan American Championships and the top spot at the 2016 world junior championships.
Given her pedigree, it’s no wonder Park is a champion.
Her father, Jae Park, who is also a black belt, runs the family-owned dojang where she grew up, the Tae Ryong Park Academy in Winnipeg. No fewer than 16 of her close relatives are also black belts.
Her dad is her coach and he’s also one of the national team coaches, something Park says is helpful, most of the time.
“There are some challenges, just being with him 24/7, but, no, I’m super thankful — he knows me better than anyone else so we have that trust that is very important,” she laughed.
“I really like it, it’s all that I know.”
As she gets ready to represent Canada this summer, Park is also busy working as an ambassador for RBC’s Training Ground program.
The program helps uncover athletes with Olympic potential and the latest schedule of events gets started this week with qualifiers planned across the country, including in Winnipeg on March 14.
“This is a great way for people with athletic ability to see if they can hopefully one day represent Canada at the Olympics,” explained Park.
“They go through a series of four different tests — strength, power, endurance and speed — and they’ll see where they fit in and find a sport that best suits them.
“I’m excited to be part of the search for the next generation of Canadian Olympic athletes.”