Jackie Galloway might be a heavyweight by taekwondo standards, but she’s smaller than most of her opponents.
That’s familiar territory for the SMU student, who will compete at the Summer Olympics in Brazil with the same approach that has allowed her to become one of top-ranked women in the world in her sport. She needs to be faster and smarter in the ring to compensate for the size difference.
“I’m usually the smallest one,” Galloway said. “It’s just a new puzzle.”
Galloway, 20, became the first qualifier for the U.S. Olympic team in taekwondo by virtue of her top-six world ranking in the 67-kilogram weight class as of December 2015.
She will compete on the final weekend in Rio de Janeiro, beginning Aug. 20, meaning she’ll have plenty of time after the opening ceremony to get acclimated and train on-site with her father and coach, Dave.
“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid,” said Galloway, a 2014 graduate of Wylie High School who now lives in Sachse. “It’s the result of the accumulation of all the hard work I’ve put into the sport.”
Indeed, her history in taekwondo dates back to age 7, when she began training at a dojo owned by her parents in Garland. With so many other family members already involved, it came naturally.
“It’s definitely a family thing,” she said. “When I was 7, they let me start and I fell in love with it. I’m very competitive. I told them I was going be a world champion and go the Olympics.”
Those dreams came into sharper focus when Galloway was a teenager. A product of dual citizenship in the U.S. and Mexico through her grandparents, she made the Mexican senior national team at age 14, and eventually was an alternate for Mexico for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, although she didn’t attend.
“That was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Galloway said of competing for Mexico. “Those were things my family couldn’t afford at the time.”
More recently, Galloway took third in her weight class last year at the world championships in Russia, and claimed a gold medal at the Pan American Games.
“I’ve gotten to experience all these different places and cultures,” Galloway said. “I wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for taekwondo.”
Galloway said she hopes her success will help to increase the popularity of the sport in the Dallas area. She emphasizes the qualities of taekwondo that appeal to her, such as the ability to combine speed, strength, power, and agility.
“I find myself being an ambassador for my sport,” Galloway said. “People misunderstand it and confuse it with other forms of martial arts. On top of being very powerful and competitive, it’s also very strategic.”
Galloway joined the rowing team when she first came to SMU, but since had to drop that sport. After taking last semester off to intensify her Olympic training, she plans to return to school this fall to continue pursuing an engineering degree.
But first, she has some big plans on the world stage, where Galloway said she won’t be intimidated by the setting or the elite international competition.
“My plan is to come home with a gold medal,” she said. “I have the potential and the ability to be an Olympic champion.”