Winnipeg’s Skylar Park working towards Olympic return alongside taekwondo family

Born into a family of 16 black belts, taekwondo runs in the blood of Skylar Park.

The Winnipeg native, along with her brothers Taeku and Braven, compete for Canada at the international level, led by their coach and father, Jae.

Skylar Park’s first coach was her mom, Andrea.

“From the very beginning, I was crawling on the mats … I first put on pads and stepped into the ring for competition at two years old,” Park told Complex Canada.

Park, who earned her black belt when she was seven, has seen her meteoric rise in the sport that put her family and herself on the map.

She won gold in the 59-kilogram weight class at the 2016 world junior championships in Burnaby, B.C.,— a breakthrough performance that changed her life changed overnight.

“Before the junior world championships in 2016 [I] was naive and hungry and excited to show the world who [I] was and what [I] can do,” said Park, who’s victory was also recognized in her father’s home country of Korea. “I don’t think I really realized before how big of a moment it would be if I won. 

“They named me ‘the next new face of taekwondo.’”

WATCH | Taekwondo runs in the Park family’s blood:

My Story: Taekwondo is a family affair for Skylar Park

Taekwondo runs in the Park family’s blood. Skylar, along with her brothers Tae-Ku and Braven, all compete for Canada at an international level, guided by their coach and father, Jae.

Park’s success continued in 2019 with a bronze medal at the World Taekwondo Championships (57kg) and a silver medal at the Pan American Games (57kg) in Lima, as she finished on the podium in eight of her 11 international events.

Favoured to win a medal in her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, Park bowed out in the quarterfinals of the 57kg event.

WATCH | Winnipeg’s Skylar Park on mental shift after winning world junior title:

My Moment: Skylar Park on her mental shift after winning her first championship

After being named the “next new face of Taekwondo”, she learns to balance the pressure of the title and find her momentum forward.

“I wasn’t ready to be on the Olympic stage. It’s just different. I try to tell my brothers what it’s like, but I think until you’re there you have no idea,” the 24-year-old told CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux. “Some people go to the first Olympics and they have an amazing performance. But I just don’t think I was ready for the magnitude of the event.”

All three Park siblings will represent Canada at the Pan Am Games this fall in Chile, but the ultimate family goal is to have Skylar return to the Olympics to fight alongside her brothers Taeku and Braven in Paris. 

“It’s so routine and it’s just what we do. And so you don’t think about how special what we’re doing is that often and how unique it is,” she told CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux. “Some people, even in the world of taekwondo, think we just kind of pretend. “This is real. Everyone’s all in and I think we’re working towards this huge goal together. None of us take it for granted how special it is.”

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