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Young taekwondo star receives junior black belt


THREE MILE PLAINS - Fourteen-year-old Madison Swinamer is the first member of Victory Taekwondo, based in Port Williams, to receive a junior black belt.

She received her first Poom — or junior black belt — on June 15 in Halifax, in front of family and fellow athletes.

Swinamer was tested in conditioning, patterns, sparring and board breaking. She also had to present a resume and be interviewed by her instructors.

She received the highest mark from the group being tested.

But it’s not over yet, least of all for Swinamer herself.

“It was very special to me to get the black belt, it was a major confidence booster,” Swinamer said at Three Mile Plains Elementary, where she frequently trains. “It was really special.”

Swinamer has put in a gruelling amount of hours, averaging at two or three nights a week. She’s been studying taekwondo for half of her life, starting at age seven.

“We spar and do lots of stretching, kicks, combinations to improve,” she said. “I think my technique with my kicks and my flexibility are the main things I want to improve.”

Swinamer, who lives in Garlands Crossing just outside Windsor, is already looking ahead to the next step.

“There’s still more levels, first degree, second degree, you can keep going up,” she said. “I want to keep going and compete at nationals.”

 

Competition

Swinamer is no stranger to tournaments, competing in provincials and taekwondo challenges.

“I used to be really shy, but as I started going to the tournaments, I realized I had to be able to stand up in front of people,” she said.

“When I’m sparring or going through my technique, I’m concentrating, going through it step by step,” she said. “How high my kicks are, how steady I am, you want to be the best at every move.”

That's translated into success in her life outside of sports as well, she said.

 “At school, I can now talk in front of a crowd.”

Swinamer also plays soccer, volleyball and softball. But when she shows off her medals and black belt, she can’t help but grin.

“I feel really proud when I look at them and see what I’ve accomplished. They represent a lot of hard work,” she says.

“This one is the gold from the Atlantic Canada Games. It’s my favourite because it was my favourite tournament I’ve gone to. It’s the biggest medal; it’s the best. Feels good to have it.”

Swinamer has some time to train up for the next round of tournaments, which kick off in October, and will be the toughest ones yet.

She’ll be entering the junior black belt division, which will include head shots, kicking with head gear.

Swinamer said she plans to compete at the taekwondo nationals in 2017 in Calgary.

 

What is taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, developed in the 1940s and 1950s, incorporating elements of karate and Korean combat techniques. It also encompasses a strict code of discipline that students must adhere to.

Angel Kozlowski, one of Swinamer’s instructors at Victory Taekwondo, said the black belt comes with an increased leadership role at the club.

“She’s at that age where she’s a great role model for the other children,” Kozlowski said. “She’s very respectful, follows all of the rules and is an honour student in school as well.”

And there's still plenty for Swinamer to learn, she added.

“The next step for her is moving up to headshots, then she’s able to compete at provincials, move up to nationals and then if she wins, she could go up to the worlds,” she said. “When she turns 15, she’ll receive her full black belt.”

The taekwondo club has been open for five years and Swinamer is the first member to receive the black belt. The club’s home base is in Port Williams, but they also teach out of the Three Mile Plains Elementary School.

Kozlowski said Swinamer’s biggest challenge is her flexibility.

“She’s quite tight in the hip and to achieve the headshot level at nationals, she needs to improve that,” she said. “We’ve recommended some stretching therapy, which would help a lot. There’s also certain exercises she can do on her own.”

One thing’s for sure, her confidence has skyrocketed.

Swinamer wants to get into the medical profession when she gets older. Her younger brother, who is 12, is also at Victory Taekwondo. He has cystic fibrosis, and Swinamer said she wants to help find a cure.

“He’s going for his black belt too,” she said. “We’re a taekwondo family.”

 

Medal winner

The following are some of Madison Swinamer’s medals and awards:

Black belt certificate.

Double gold medals for sparring at the Atlantic Canada Games.

Bronze in forms and silver in sparring at the Taekwondo Championships.

Two gold and a silver in sparring at the Taekwondo Challenge.

Bronze in board breaking at the Taekwondo Challenge.

Bronze in forms and silver in sparring at the New Brunswick Open.

She received her first Poom — or junior black belt — on June 15 in Halifax, in front of family and fellow athletes.

Swinamer was tested in conditioning, patterns, sparring and board breaking. She also had to present a resume and be interviewed by her instructors.

She received the highest mark from the group being tested.

But it’s not over yet, least of all for Swinamer herself.

“It was very special to me to get the black belt, it was a major confidence booster,” Swinamer said at Three Mile Plains Elementary, where she frequently trains. “It was really special.”

Swinamer has put in a gruelling amount of hours, averaging at two or three nights a week. She’s been studying taekwondo for half of her life, starting at age seven.

“We spar and do lots of stretching, kicks, combinations to improve,” she said. “I think my technique with my kicks and my flexibility are the main things I want to improve.”

Swinamer, who lives in Garlands Crossing just outside Windsor, is already looking ahead to the next step.

“There’s still more levels, first degree, second degree, you can keep going up,” she said. “I want to keep going and compete at nationals.”

 

Competition

Swinamer is no stranger to tournaments, competing in provincials and taekwondo challenges.

“I used to be really shy, but as I started going to the tournaments, I realized I had to be able to stand up in front of people,” she said.

“When I’m sparring or going through my technique, I’m concentrating, going through it step by step,” she said. “How high my kicks are, how steady I am, you want to be the best at every move.”

That's translated into success in her life outside of sports as well, she said.

 “At school, I can now talk in front of a crowd.”

Swinamer also plays soccer, volleyball and softball. But when she shows off her medals and black belt, she can’t help but grin.

“I feel really proud when I look at them and see what I’ve accomplished. They represent a lot of hard work,” she says.

“This one is the gold from the Atlantic Canada Games. It’s my favourite because it was my favourite tournament I’ve gone to. It’s the biggest medal; it’s the best. Feels good to have it.”

Swinamer has some time to train up for the next round of tournaments, which kick off in October, and will be the toughest ones yet.

She’ll be entering the junior black belt division, which will include head shots, kicking with head gear.

Swinamer said she plans to compete at the taekwondo nationals in 2017 in Calgary.

 

What is taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, developed in the 1940s and 1950s, incorporating elements of karate and Korean combat techniques. It also encompasses a strict code of discipline that students must adhere to.

Angel Kozlowski, one of Swinamer’s instructors at Victory Taekwondo, said the black belt comes with an increased leadership role at the club.

“She’s at that age where she’s a great role model for the other children,” Kozlowski said. “She’s very respectful, follows all of the rules and is an honour student in school as well.”

And there's still plenty for Swinamer to learn, she added.

“The next step for her is moving up to headshots, then she’s able to compete at provincials, move up to nationals and then if she wins, she could go up to the worlds,” she said. “When she turns 15, she’ll receive her full black belt.”

The taekwondo club has been open for five years and Swinamer is the first member to receive the black belt. The club’s home base is in Port Williams, but they also teach out of the Three Mile Plains Elementary School.

Kozlowski said Swinamer’s biggest challenge is her flexibility.

“She’s quite tight in the hip and to achieve the headshot level at nationals, she needs to improve that,” she said. “We’ve recommended some stretching therapy, which would help a lot. There’s also certain exercises she can do on her own.”

One thing’s for sure, her confidence has skyrocketed.

Swinamer wants to get into the medical profession when she gets older. Her younger brother, who is 12, is also at Victory Taekwondo. He has cystic fibrosis, and Swinamer said she wants to help find a cure.

“He’s going for his black belt too,” she said. “We’re a taekwondo family.”

 

Medal winner

The following are some of Madison Swinamer’s medals and awards:

Black belt certificate.

Double gold medals for sparring at the Atlantic Canada Games.

Bronze in forms and silver in sparring at the Taekwondo Championships.

Two gold and a silver in sparring at the Taekwondo Challenge.

Bronze in board breaking at the Taekwondo Challenge.

Bronze in forms and silver in sparring at the New Brunswick Open.

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