Taekwondo Olympian Medalist, Rio 2016
“My story is a testament that you can be an athlete and a student. Do not let the perceptions of society box you in.”
Jackie Galloway is a source of calm inspiration. Taking it all as it comes, not thinking beyond the challenges in front, she seemed to us unworried and ready to take on the world. Her attitude stems from her environment growing up, with her father being a strong role model, and her parents encouraging her to follow her dream. At the age of 16 she had the opportunity to train in Mexico for a few months, and this experience seems to have helped her build such a strong mindset.
We spoke to her about what it takes to be a world champion, and about how she deals with the failure that comes as well as the wins. She told us that it is all part of sport, and that’s the risk when you take a step into the ring. She lives by Roosevelt’s ‘man in the arena’ speech, where at least if you fail you fail greatly.
At 22, Galloway is the highest ranked athlete in the US, winning her first Olympic medal in 2016 at the age of 20. She has set her sights on competing at the next Olympics in Tokyo, and currently would automatically qualify as she ranks in the top 6.
But does Taekwondo have practical applications in the real world?
For those unfamiliar with Taekwondo, it is a Korean martial art, with a heavy emphasis on kicks. It is seen in the Olympic games and the competitors score points according to how and where they make contact on the body - with appropriate force. Galloway says that although Taekwondo is not a practical form of self-defence, she has derived great confidence from it. Learning how to judge a situation and feeling strong is something you can get from any contact sport, and this feeling of empowerment spills over into other areas of life.
Galloway is currently studying Engineering, and believes that it informs her Taekwondo, and vice versa. She solves both with abstract ideas and concepts, performing precise movements and thoroughly analysing a situation before acting.
Injuries are a common and painful part of being an athlete. In January this year, Galloway tore her achilles tendon in a practice match in training. But she seems unfazed, having a practical outlook, taking time to focus on her studies whilst letting it heal before she begins to strengthen it. Galloway says she tries not to look too far ahead, instead focusing on small steps and achievements in her recovery. This is also how she approaches her tournaments, step by step, never getting lost in the expectations and build up, but staying focused on her path.
Before the 2016 Olympics, Galloway took time out of College and went to train in Rio a few in the lead up to the tournament, to train with some of the teams. Galloway loved Rio, telling us how beautiful she found it, and how positive the energy was around her matches. We asked her how she dealt with the pressure around such a prestigious competition, and she replied that she was just excited. All the hard work was done before she arrived, it was just a case of performing what she wanted on the mats.
What with studying full time and being an athlete, Galloway has a pretty full schedule. She usually begins the day with strength and conditioning, then Taekwondo specific training in the evening after her College work.
Women in Taekwondo: There are the same number of female weight divisions as men, and the same amount of women and men that qualify for competitions. Until recently the perception has been that the sport is male dominated, but the UFC and MMA has done a lot to help these perceptions change. Despite being an Olympian in Taekwondo, she continues to receive those delightfully patronising questions about whether she could beat so and so up...
Galloway believes that it’s down to the general perception of Combat sports that inhibit girls from training, but hopes that her example will show that things are changing and you should pursue your dream regardless of the stereotype. She told us how kids often reach out to her on social media and she greatly values this interaction with young people. She is undeniably a role model for girls everywhere, paving her path in her own way.
Galloway is working towards competing in the two big events next year; The World championships and the Pan American Games (2019). By the end of 2019, the top 6 that are ranked in the olympic weight category automatically get a seat in the 2020 olympics, and as previously mentioned she is currently 4th.
How does your Olympic Medal feel?