Canada’s first family of taekwondo, which includes siblings Skylar, Tae-Ku and Braven Park of Winnipeg, made a big splash in the Dominican Republic last week.
Skylar Park, the world No. 3 in the 57-kilogram women’s division, earned her third title at the Pan American Championships in Punta Cana, beating Brazil’s Sandy Macedo in Wednesday’s final.
What made the event even more memorable was she was joined on the event podium by her brothers: 21-year-old Tae-Ku and 19-year-old Braven, who earned bronze medals in the under-74 kilogram and under-63 kilogram divisions, respectively.
All three are coached by their father, Jae Park.
“It was more exciting, especially having my brothers on that team and competing alongside them,” said Skylar Park, 22. “We all competed on the same day and I think it fuelled us. As you win a match and then you see them win a match and then you’re watching them and cheering for them.
“I think we just kind of like fed off of each other’s energy. It was a lot more special for my entire family to have all three of us on the team and my mom (Andrea) was there and obviously my dad was there, too.”
On Saturday, the Parks also competed in the Pan American Open, a companion event where Skylar moved up to the under-62 kilogram division and claimed the silver medal. Braven, meanwhile, claimed gold in his division while Tae-ku repeated his bronze-medal performance.
Both brothers were making their senior national team debuts after qualifying at Canadian team trials last month. Skylar, the eldest, is a seasoned international competitor and represented Canada at the 2021 Toyko Summer Olympic Games.
“It was the most nervous I’ve been for a tournament in my life because it was my first time being on the senior national team and it’s also my first senior championship,” said Braven Park. “So it was very exciting but very nerve-racking as well. I was honestly more excited and happy to be there and to just do my best to show the world and everyone who I am.”
Tae-ku Park was thrilled to be part of three podium finishes, believed to be a first such achievement for Team Canada siblings.
“Especially being on the first senior national team for me and Braven and all three of us being on the senior team together now and then being able to get these results at the championships and the Open is just unbelievable,” said Tae-Ku.
Braven Park went to Puna Cana with low expectations.
“I wasn’t really thinking about medaling,” he said. “I was just going in there to perform and do my best and then if I did my best, I knew that I would come up with something.”
Tae-ku felt confident he had podium potential.
“I did believe that I could medal coming in,” said Tae-Ku. “My goal was to end up on the podium. With the experience of fighting some of these fighters in previous competitions and my experience fighting guys ranked in the top 10 in the world over in Europe, I believed I could compete with the best in the world.”
After being unexpectedly eliminated in the quarter-finals at the Olympics, Skylar Park was happy to get her mojo back at a high-stakes international competition. All three Parks are aiming to compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
“The Olympics obviously weren’t the results that I wanted and to come back to a championship and kind of be able to come out on top again, it’s definitely good,” said Skylar. “It helps my confidence moving forward into this next cycle and as we continue on. I go back to the Grand Prix circuit in three weeks, so I’m excited.”
The boisterous crowds in Punta Cana were a first for the sport since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s the first event that we’ve had huge crowds and all the national teams — they’re chanting and cheering,” she said. “So that’s always something that I feed off of as an athlete when I’m fighting.”