Taekwondo may have originated in Korea, but Aliyah Shipman is hoping to bring home gold for Haiti in the Tokyo Olympics.
The 18-year-old Taekwondo star is one of the youngest athletes heading to Tokyo this summer.
Shipman trains for hours on end at I-Fight Mohamed Ali Martial Arts and Fitness Center, but she got her start in the sport early on.
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"When I was around nine years old, I was a chubby little kid and my mom wanted me to do some physical activity, so she put me into Taekwondo,” Shipman said.
She quickly got hooked on the sport.
“I think I realized after my first competition. I think I was around 10 years old and I won. I got my gold medal and that feeling of winning was so good, I was like, I want to keep doing this,” said Shipman.
Shipman is now hoping for a win for Haiti. Although she was born and raised in Plantation, she’s of Haitian descent as her father is from the island. Shipman is currently the only person in one sport that has qualified to represent Haiti in these Olympics.
“I kind of wanted to go back to my roots and fight for Haiti and give them some representation because they don’t have a lot of representation in sports and especially in Taekwondo,” said Shipman.
Athleticism also runs in the family. Shipman’s father played college football and her brother is a Pan American Champion in Taekwondo, ranking number one in the world in 2019. Their training brings a whole new meaning to sibling rivalry.
“I do fight with my brother. He’s my training partner. I fight with him every day and I kick him in the face. He’ll tell you a few stories,” said Shipman.
Shipman may be young, but she’s ready to bring it.
“I think I’m young is an advantage in some ways. I’m new and people might underestimate me, but they shouldn’t because I’m working really hard to be the best,” said the Taekwondo athlete.
Her coach, who was a competitive Taekwondo athlete himself, puts Shipman to the test every day and knows she has the dedication to go far.
“When I met Aliyah, I just saw a lot of potential. I was like wow, this girl is going places. I said, hey, you got a big chance to be an Olympic champion,” said Mohamed Ali with I-Fight MA Martial Arts and Fitness Center.
Not only is she accomplished on the Taekwondo mat, but Shipman also has brains. She just completed her first year at the University of Miami studying finance and accounting. Her father is beaming with pride.
“We have that winning type of attitude but it takes a lot of commitment, dedication and focus and that’s what Aliyah has. She’s actually a better person than she is an athlete and when she combines the two, she’s going to be awesome,” said Aliyah’s father, Gary Shipman.
As she heads to Tokyo, Shipman hopes to win a gold medal and she wants to inspire other young women to take up the sport.
“I want all women, even if they’re not doing Taekwondo as a competitive sport to just learn Taekwondo or some kind of martial arts,” said Shipman.
It takes a village to get to the Olympics, so Aliyah’s family has set up a GoFundMe page for those who want to support her on her journey to Tokyo.