By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It’s been said that champions are made, not born. Grace Holowiski of Taber is a champion, and if she wasn’t born that way, she’s now made herself into one. In September, she competed at the Taekwon-do World Championships in Finland and came home victorious. “I placed first, so I came home from that trip a world champion. It was my ninth world medal,” she said, noting that it was her fifth time competing at an all-world level.
The competition lasted for a week and she was there from Sept. 5 to 8. “I do special technique,” she explained. “It’s a form of board-breaking. The boards are set at a certain height, and you have to execute a kick and break the board.” In the women’s special technique category, there were about 25 competitors from around the world. To qualify, the contestants must have been selected for entry by a competition committee, so, “It’s the best of the best,” she said. There were over 1000 competitors at the world championships. To be eligible as a qualifying competitor at the world championships, she first had to establish that she could compete and be dominant at a national level.
“The first qualifier was the national championships in Vernon. That was back in May, and then there was the selections camp, which was in June. I placed first at the nationals in May, so then I got my invite to the official selections camp. At the selections camp you train as hard as you can for two days and show the team Canada coaches all that you’ve got. At the end of the weekend they announced team Canada, and I was put on the team and also given the title of team captain,” she said.
She described the tournament in Finland as a single elimination event, with boards oriented in a different way for each kick. “There are five kicks, so you go up and you do your five kicks and each one is worth three points, so you can get a total of 15. It’s whoever can get the most points. I hit all five of my kicks so nobody was able to beat me.” she said.
She began in the sport at the age of 11, and said, “I fell in love with it right away.” Taekwon-do utilizes a coloured belt system where ten coloured belts represent increasing levels of skill and nine black belts signify graduating degrees of expertise. Holowiski had her black belt by the age of 14, and now at 22, is currently a second degree black belt. She explained how Taekwon-do differs from other martial arts, saying, “Most other martial arts don’t have the special technique board-breaking. Our sparring style is we can kick and punch to the head and it’s point sparring, but it’s not for knockouts. When we’re sparring, it’s not knock your opponent out, it’s who can get the most points in the two minute time span. It has more in common with karate than jiu jitsu. We don’t do anything on the ground.”
Her success hasn’t come by way of fluke or ‘being born a champion.’ Unsurprisingly, she is highly motivated and hard-working. “I trained like crazy to get on Team Canada and I made Team Canada for the first time when I was 16,” she said. She originally got involved in the sport because her coach, Brandi Merritt, was a family friend. “I think the reason that I fell in love with it is that the sportsmanship in it is really good, I like how competitive it is, and I like the Taekwon-do community. I like that it gives me a goal to work towards, especially being at this elite level. At my first world championships I got silver, so since then I’ve just been able to push myself to work harder to achieve the goal of world champion. I would say that I’m really driven and really goal-oriented, so I went in there with a goal and after five world championships, I finally did it: I got my world champion title.” That’s what you call a ‘can-do’ mindset.