ISU student to compete for international collegiate taekwondo title


Photo: Leah Hansen/Iowa State Daily

Emmie Myers’, senior in interior design, finish in April’s national competition earned her a place on the U.S. World University Taekwondo Championship team. The event will be held June 29 – July 4 in Virgo, Spain.

Sarah Haas

Two points behind her opponent, Emmie Myers knew what she had to do in the last 10 seconds of her final match at the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association Championship.

“I remember thinking I have to kick her in the head or it’s over,” Myers said.

Myers, senior in interior design, said she and her opponent’s skills were evenly matched but she managed to land a kick on the side of her opponent’s head.

“Everybody was just screaming, and then I realized it’s over, it’s done; I did it. It made me really proud to represent Iowa State. It was like a movie almost,” she said.

Myers’ finish in April’s national competition earned her a place on the U.S. World University Taekwondo Championships team. The event will be held June 29 to July 4 in Virgo, Spain.

“She was tired and she didn’t give up all the way through, so that was exciting about that moment,” said ISU Taekwondo Club instructor Yong Chin Pak, senior lecturer in kinesiology.

Although Myers is traveling to Spain without her family or coaches, she said their support and instruction made her international debut possible. Her journey to the upcoming competition began in 1998.

“It’s a very important day; you always know your taekwondo birthday,” Myers said.

Billie Myers, Emmie’s mom, took her to preview a practice. She said Emmie loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when Emmie was little.

“I was the only girl, I remember that. I always had guy friends and girl friends, so it didn’t really bother me at all,” Emmie said.

She decided to enroll after watching the practice and speaking with her soon-to-be coach. It took her three years to earn her first black belt, which came only after she successfully obtained 15 other belts. She now ranks as a third-degree black belt.

After transferring to Iowa State from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids in 2008, she proved her skills to Pak. She joined the rigorous exercise program and worked to balance the sport with her studies and on-campus job.

“Especially during the school year, you really gotta get your stuff together,” Myers said. “You have to find some time to sleep, especially being in design.”

She credits taekwondo with teaching her the characteristics that allow her to excel in academics and athletics. Responsibility, confidence, pride and initiative were all key lessons instilled in Myers through her years mastering the sport.

While at Iowa State, she said Pak has served as a mentor and has reminded her hard work and dedication can lead to success.

“There’s a lot more to taekwondo than fighting, and Master Pak wants us to learn that stuff; like knowing not to do the wrong thing when the right thing is there,” Emmie said.

Her reverence for the sport pushes her to wake up for the 6 a.m. workouts and stay vigilant for the 7 p.m. full-club workouts. For her upcoming competition, she runs two miles every day, completes extra drills, performs 200 kicks and jumps rope.

“Her dedication has made this opportunity possible,” Pak said. “She doesn’t make excuses.”

Billie said watching her daughter progress athletically has been “mind blowing … [I] never thought she would get this far.”

Mentally, Emmie said she is prepared to represent the United States.

“Taekwondo is the best way I can express myself,” she said. “When I do it, I don’t think about anything and I can get away.”

Her 12 years in the sport have given her the confidence to compete on a stage unparalleled by any of her previous taekwondo experiences, which have taken her to foreign countries, including North Korea. She said the Office of Student Affairs has helped to financially support her trip to Spain.

“I just never expected to come this far, because when I started I was just going to see if whether I liked it and now it’s going to take me around the world,” she said. “Who would have thought some country girl from Iowa would be representing the United States?”