World taekwondo champion and naval reservist says training ‘does not feel like work’
Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, March 8, 2019 8:16PM EST
One of the world’s best taekwondo athletes is sharing her message of perseverance and is encouraging everyone to “go for your dreams.”
Yvette Yong is currently ranked first in the world in her taekwondo weight class and this week she was named International Military Female Athlete of the Year.
Speaking from a Toronto-area gym where she trains and teaches, Yong told CTV News Toronto that her parents enrolled her in taekwondo on her ninth birthday. She said she fell in love with “the fire in martial arts.”
“I was jumping off walls, I was doing all kinds of sports, got into a little bit of fights sometimes at school, but for good reasons,” she said. “When I won my first medal I got a taste of competition.”
“I just fell in love with it right away.”
The soon-to-be 29-year-old was born in Vancouver and moved to Toronto in 2013 to heighten her skills and work closely with her mentor and grandmaster Young Choung.
Choung scouted Yong in her early days and later suggested she join the Canadian Armed Forces, where he’s the head coach of their taekwondo program.
“Attitude is so important. She never gives up. A very strong, strong will,” said Choung. “She doesn’t lose by her fear.”
The idea of working with the Canadian military really resonated with Yong. She is now a naval reservist and a three-time World Military Taekwondo Champion.
“Canada has brought so many opportunities for so many people, especially my parents. When they came over here, Canada opened up their arms,” she said. “It makes me feel good to give back to my country.”
In addition to competing with the military team, Yong is also on the Canadian national team. Her former teammate said that Yong’s ability outmatches those of other athletes.
“What really stands out, and this is why she is ranked number one in the world, is her physical capability, her speed, her power, outmatches really anyone in the world,” Ali Ghafour said.
Yong said that her success is still “surreal.” When she started to win on the world stage, she said the first thing she thought about was her mother.
“She is the rock to everything that I do. She is the one that taught me to go for your dreams and not care what anybody else thought. Because once you let people judge you, once you let people control your thoughts, you lose your relationship with yourself. The relationship with yourself is really important – you are the only one who can do what you want to do.”
In addition to her contracts with the military and her competitions, Yong finds time to teach an after-school taekwondo program for kids.
“It does not feel like work,” she said.
On Thursday, Yong qualified for the Pan Am games in Peru. Her next goal is to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Michelle Dube