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Ice In Her Veins And Gold On The Brain: North Texas Taekwondo Olympian Fights To Win

Texans must be natural fighters, because all four members of the Olympic taekwondo team were either born or raised in the Lone Star State. Youngest member Jackie Galloway goes to SMU, trains in Garland and lives in Wylie.

She was the only American to clinch a spot in Rio last December when she ranked fourth in the world. The 20-year-old comes from a taekwondo dynasty—and she’s not going to Rio to sight-see.

A sport less understood

Taekwondo isn’t football. People don’t buy celebrity uniforms or play fantasy sparring online. But even people who can’t tell the difference between an axe kick and a roundhouse, can see one thing pretty easily.

Jackie Galloway, is good.

“She kicks hard!” Austin Galloway laughs.

Younger brother Austin—a nationally ranked black belt himself-- bravely holds the bag Jackie is currently pummeling. He’s her official Olympic training partner and will be with her every day in Rio.

Road to Rio

Jackie is a first-time Olympian; she was an alternate four years ago.  She’ll head to Rio early next month. To her, the flashbulbs, the crowds, the electrifying opening ceremonies—it’s all just distraction. She has one goal, and it’s simple.

“I’m not going there just to participate and be another face in the crowd,” she says. “I’m there to bring home the gold.”

And this SMU sophomore takes a brainy approach to the sport.

A ‘killer instinct’

“I study engineering so I kind of enjoy puzzles and problem solving so it’s very strategic but it’s very competitive, so that competitive killer instinct side of me has an outlet to get out and perform,” she says.

That’s how she’s always been, her dad says. She doesn’t hope for a win, she knows she can get one. She isn’t worried about losing—that thought just doesn’t cross her mind.

“I remember at 14 she fought her first woman and knocked the lady, knocked the lady out,” says Gary Galloway.

Credit Hady Mawajdeh / KERA news
KERA news
Jackie is all smiles outside the competition ring. Inside, she fights to win.

Taekwondo dynasty

For the Galloways, this is a family business. Gary is also Jackie’s coach. He was also trained by his Dad, and came very close to Olympic glory himself. At age 35, Gary just missed making the 2008 team.

“The United States is blessed to have Mr. Steven Lopez, the five-time Olympian of Tae Kwon Do, the Michael Jordan of Tae Kwon Do, and he took the spot that year and represented the United States and I didn’t,” he says.

Gary Galloway’s ultimate goal was always passing this sport onto his children. He says Jackie’s commitment and confidence make her stand out—which is why in Rio, he’ll focus more on being coach, than Dad.

“It’s a, maybe, once in a lifetime opportunity that many, many people don’t get, but we’re just not really focused on that part of it right now,” he says. “I’ll try to find some time, maybe closing ceremonies to take it all in, but until then she’s on a mission and I’m trying to help her take that next step.”

Just one goal

That’s just how Jackie wants it. The Olympic Games are just another tournament. Just another opportunity to put all that back-breaking training to good use.

“I also look at it as, all the hard work I’ve done, I’m going to put it on somebody,” she says. “I’m going to remember that time I was crying and hurt and I’m going to make someone feel that because I went through a lot to get there.”

Don’t be fooled by the giant smile, painted toenails and delicate braid woven into her ponytail. Jackie Galloway is headed to Rio with ice in her veins, and gold on the brain.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.