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The Women's Sports Alliance

PRESENTS...

Aaliyah Powell from fearful to ferocious fighter and her ‘golden girl’ dreams

“I feel the best I've ever felt going into these Worlds,” Aaliyah Powell tells the WSA. “This is the time to turn the bronze into gold.”


Image courtesy of GB Taekwondo /James Fowles


This is more than just ‘fighting talk’ delivered by one of Britain’s best taekwondo players.


At 20 she may still be young in her sport, but with two senior World Championships – and two World Championship medals – already secured during her early years in the sport she is fully aware that now is the time to unleash her full capacity.


Qualification for the Paris 2024 Games is nearing a close and she is determined to be there – despite a rather sizeable obstacle in the form of a double Olympic champion…


MAKING HER MARK, IN MANCHESTER

Aaliyah’s bronze medal on home soil in 2019 was a “shock” but repeating that achievement in 2022 was arguably even more “impressive” given the injury struggles she had endured between the two events.


Now a ‘full strength’ Aaliyah aims to prove she has major medal-winning potential.


“At my first worlds I was 16 and thrown into something new and I didn't have any expectations or pressure and that kind of kick-started my whole senior journey,” she says.


“Then at last year’s worlds I felt in a better position despite the injuries and to come away with another medal was really good, but at the same time heart-breaking because I was so close to getting into the final.


“Now I’m focusing on the things that I can control, which comes with experience and I know that everyone is there to win and we’re all similar physically but mentally that’s what can make the difference – so I’m trying to be as relaxed as possible.”


‘I WANTED TO BE A FENCER, NOT A FIGHTER’


It is a far cry from her approach to the sport a decade ago.


“When I first started taekwondo (aged 10) I hated sparring and I was really scared,” she tells the WSA.

“I was originally thinking about going into fencing, but all the tactical elements to taekwondo got me hooked and once I got over that fear I progressed really quickly.”


It has been a quite remarkable transformation for the athlete who has gone on to become a junior World champion and beat the record as Britain’s youngest-ever senior World medallist – which was previously held by one of the legends of the sport – Jade Jones.


Image courtesy of GB Taekwondo /James Fowles


THE MASTERS AND THE APPRENTICE GO HEAD-TO-HEAD

Five years ago Jade, while working for the BBC as part of their coverage of the 2018 Youth Olympics, interviewed Aaliyah in Argentina about her future goals.


Now the pair are rivals with only one of the fighters able to compete in the -57kg division at the Paris 2024 Games.


“I’ve learned so much by being around so many successful fighters like Jade, Bianca (Walkden), Lauren (Williams) and so many others,” she continues.


“We (Jade and I) both respect each other and it’s unfortunate that only one person can go to Paris and we both have to see how this year goes.


“I just hope that I'm the one that gets to go!”


LIFE LESSONS FROM A CAREER-THREATENING INJURY

In addition to gaining greater experience in the competition arena Aaliyah has also learned great lessons away from it.


In 2019 she suffered a “devastating” knee ligament injury which threatened to derail her career, but inspired by Bianca Walkden’s return from two similar injuries she “tore my lateral meniscus in half the day I was supposed to go to the junior Europeans so I couldn’t go to the competition and after it deteriorated, I had to go down the surgery route,” she recalls.


“I cried a lot at the beginning as I didn’t know what the future held, but speaking with Bianca helped – it showed what can be possible after an injury like that.


“It’s definitely taken a lot of mental resilience (to come through that) but that will help me for the rest of my career.


Aaliyah continues; “If anything, that time out has probably given me even more hunger to be successful.”

Image courtesy of GB Taekwondo /James Fowles


ONE CLEAR CAREER GOAL


What does success look like to her? The answer to that one is unequivocally clear.


“To be Olympic champion, for me it’s the big one,” she tells the WSA.


“It’s the reason I wanted to get into an Olympic sport, and be a high-performance athletes and I’m working my hardest to achieve my dream.”

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