With flexibility, lots of sweat, determination and grit, Paige McPherson is kicking up the competition as the Tokyo Olympics are right around the corner.
“It’s been a whirlwind. I’m just excited to get there. We're hopefully in the last stretch of the race," said Olympic Taekwondo athlete, Paige McPherson.
It's been a long journey to Tokyo but the Taekwondo athlete, known as "McFierce," is not letting anything get in her way of representing Team USA in the Olympics.
With the one year delay of the Olympics due to the COVID-19 crisis, McPherson spoke to NBC 6 about how she faced the training challenges with grace.
“We did have to get creative, we did that whole Zoom thing and using water jugs as weights. Anything creative to kind of maintain our physique," said McPherson.
McPherson grew up in South Dakota, but she now calls Miami home. She has been bringing up the heat, training at Peak Performance in Miami-Dade.
“I'm blessed to be here. Even though my family isn’t here, my Taekwondo family is here so it’s nice to be back again in the gym with other bodies," said McPherson.
The 30-year-old is now motivated by her teammates, but she developed a passion for the sport at a young age. In a diverse family of five adopted siblings, her older brother started Taekwondo to learn about his Korean heritage. As a spunky little sister, she says she wanted to follow her brother in the sport and she never looked back.
“The values that you learn in Taekwondo have really helped me become who I am today. It was a family affair until I was recruited by coach Juan Miguel Moreno," said McPherson.
Fresh out of high school, McPherson then started training with three-time Olympian Juan Miguel Moreno in 2009.
"Here we are, some years later, going to our third Olympic Games together. She’s obviously a special individual with a very determined mindset and hopefully this Olympic Games, she’ll get on the podium again," said coach Juan Miguel Moreno of Peak Performance.
While McPherson is standing out for her rise to the top in Taekwondo, the Filipino and black athlete has also stood out for her multi-cultural roots.
“I think representation is very important. I think character over reputation is even more so. If I can represent that on a higher level, to believe in yourself and believe in who you are as an individual, that’s my goal," said McPherson.
McPherson won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London and represented Team USA in Rio in 2016, but she's got her sights set on a gold medal this summer.
The fierce competitor already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, ranking number five in her combined weight divisions. Now she says she's ready for Tokyo.
"We'll never forget about this Olympics. Also, this is one of those hopeful events where everybody is kind of excited for something worldwide," said McPherson.