Kaitlynn Soo has long since accomplished her first goal in the sport of taekwondo – she’s gotten better than her younger brother.
And by the way, the Ursuline freshman also won a national championship and represented Team USA at the World Taekwondo Championships in South Korea.
But it was a case of sibling rivalry that first convinced Soo to give taekwondo a try in 2010 after she initially thought the outfit looked too weird.
“My brother was the one who started,” she said. “I was at that age where I was really competitive with him, so I started doing it and I really fell in love with the sport.”
When she was younger, Soo was involved in ballet and ice skating, but she liked the all-around focus of taekwondo, which requires a combination of power, balance, strength, and mental discipline.
“You get the exhilaration of fighting someone, but it’s not really violent,” Soo said. “It’s a good stress reliever, I guess.”
Taekwondo is different from other martial arts in the way it mixes elements of karate with traditional Korean forms. Soo describes it to friends as “fencing with your feet.”
Soo, 14, burst onto the national stage in 2013, when she won her first gold medal in sparring at the USA Taekwondo National Championships in Chicago. The following summer, she claimed two golds at the Texas State Taekwondo Championships.
In 2015, Soo won another gold medal at the national meet in Virginia, which earned her an invitation to join Team USA as part of the Cadet National Team. She spent a week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs before competing in the 41-kilogram weight class in Muju, South Korea, where she lost to a girl from France in the early rounds.
Still, the experience was unforgettable.
“It’s really interesting to connect with people all over the world through this sport,” Soo said.
This year will be more difficult for Soo, who must move up from the cadet to the junior division, meaning she’ll square off against fighters up to 17 years old. But she looks forward to the challenge in a sport that has become a passion.
“When I started, I figured it would be just for recreation,” said Soo, who trains in Coppell. “Now it’s something that’s going to be a really big part of my life.”