Winnipegger Skylar Park leaves Tokyo empty handed, vows to return to fight for Taekwondo gold in Paris

Skylar Park’s childhood dream of capturing an Olympic gold will have to wait, as she was unable to overcome the pressure of performing under the brightest lights on the world’s biggest athletic stage.

But she vows that she will be back.

The Winnipeg Taekwondo athlete lost her quarter-final match, ending her time at these Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“The goal was always the gold medal and we fell short of that and it stings,” Park said as she wiped away tears shortly after her final match. “I really wanted to win it for myself and for Canada and for my family and all of the people that have supported me.”

Park has won before in big events, winning silver at the 2019 Pan Games and capturing gold at the Pan Am Taekwondo championships.

But those events were nothing compared to what she encountered in Tokyo

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The 22-year said there was a huge gap between what she thought the Olympic experience was going to be and what actually transpired 

“Being in this environment is completely different, being in this arena on the Olympic mats, it’s a different feeling,” Park said.

“You can dream about it all and imagine what it will be like all you want, but don’t actually know until you are there.”

On a number of occasions, Park has beaten the Taiwanese fighter who defeated her today. Park fell behind early against her taller opponent and was never able to recover.

‘That’s why the Olympics are the Olympics’

While most athletes at these Olympics left their family’s behind at home, Park’s was right behind her – literally.

Her father Jae is her longtime coach and her brother Tae-ku came to Tokyo as his sister’s training partner.

Both of their disappointment was visible afterwards.

WATCH | Skylar Park comes from a family of black belts:

Jae Park says Olympic nerves appeared to have gotten the better of his daughter.

“She is definitely much better than what her performance indicated today and I think that is the biggest disappointment,” he said. 

 “Being here in this Olympic environment is much different than the Grand Prixs and world championships. That’s why the Olympics are the Olympics.”

He says the next step for his daughter has to be honing the mental side of her game both on and off the mat.

“Technically, she is superior, but at this level it’s not just about who is faster, who is stronger but who is ‘on’ that particular day.”

For the Park family, Taekwondo is part of their DNA. Jae Park runs an academy in Winnipeg and 16 members of the family have black belts. They aren’t giving up on adding an Olympic gold medal to the family list of achievements.

Both coach and daughter say they have learned hard lessons here in Tokyo about what it takes to perform in the moment with the world watching. And promise the family’s Olympic journey will continue three years from now in Paris.