Canada’s Park Siblings Win Gold and Bronze in Taekwondo at Pan Am Games in Chile
Santiago, Chile (October 22, 2023) – It will be a medal-winning dinner celebration for Canada’s Park family in Chile on Sunday evening.
Afterall, it was a hometown affair for the Park family who were competing at the Pan Am Games in their mother’s birth country surrounded by friends and family. With dad, Jae, coaching all three of the siblings into the finals of the multi-sport test while mom, grandparents and many extended family members cheered from the stands above.
Skylar, the oldest of the Winnipeg-based clan at 24, completed her quest for gold by winning the women’s 57kg Kyorugi class. Her middle brother Tae-Ku, 22, snagged a bronze in the men’s 68kg class.
“I’m so honoured to represent Canada and wave the flag out there,” said Skylar Park. “Being in Chile where my mom is from – I’m a quarter Chilean – and having my grandparents and family with me here in the stands means everything to me. I have had a few good tournaments leading up to this so to end it with a win is great.”
Just days removed from winning her first-ever Grand Prix event, Skylar Park completed unfinished business at the Pan Am Games. Finishing silver four years ago at her Games debut in Lima, Peru, the long-legged scrapper tactically completed her mission to take one more step to the top of the podium this time around.
After getting a bye out of the round of 16 based on international ranking, Skylar cruised into the gold-medal match after topping Caitlyn Cox 2-0 in the quarter-finals and Panama’s Carolena Carstens Salceda 2-1 in the semis to set up a thriller against Maria Lima Pacheco in the final.
Skylar was forced to battle back after dropping the opening round to the Brazilian. Strategically working her way around the mat with powerful leg kicks and sharp punches, combined with strong defence, the lone Canadian to earn a spot in taekwondo at the Tokyo Olympic Games forced a deciding third round that brought the sold-out crowd to its feet.
With Canada’s Sport Minister, Carla Qualtrough, joining the cheering crowd, Skylar exchanged blows with the relentless Brazilian, but a technically challenging spin kick by the Canuck was the deciding factor in a 15-15 score once the clock struck zero in the final round.
“It’s not how I drew it up but I’m happy to get it done,” laughed Skylar following the medal ceremony. “The last time I was one step shorter on the podium so to be able to do this, especially with Paris now in our sights is exciting. It makes it so much more special, not only with my family but with so many more fans of the sport here in Chile cheering me on because of background, and welcoming me into their home feels great. I think having that Chilean crowd on my side meant a lot and really got me through this last match.”
Brazil’s Lima Pacheo settled for the silver medal. Two of Skylar Park’s opponents – Caitlyn Cox of the United States and Panama’s Carolena Carstens Salceda – both grabbed bronze medals.
Tae-Ku Park also leaped on to the Pan Am Games podium in his multi-sport debut in the men’s -68kg category. The 22-year-old opened his Santiago journey with a 2-0 triumph over Ecuador’s Jose Nieto Preciado. He was then on the right side of a 2-1 finish over Chile’s Ignacio Morales Puentes in the quarter-finals. Tae-Ku dropped a semi-final squeaker, 2-1, to Bernardo Pie from the Dominican Republic before topping a much taller opponent in Cuba’s Angel Fernandez Marin for the bronze 2-0.
“It feels great to finally get myself out there and medal at a bigger event for Canada. It just feels really, really good,” beamed the middle Park child. “Doing it here in Chile where my mom is from and my whole family in the stands just makes it more special. The family from Chile are the ones I could hear cheering the loudest, so it was kind of cool. I am very happy, but I do know I could have done, more so it is a little bittersweet as well.”
Mexico’s Brandon Plaza Hernandez won the gold medal with a 2-1 victory over Argentina’s Lucas Guzman.
The youngest brother – Braven – was ready to complete the medal hat trick for the Parks but lost a tough bronze-medal battle in the men’s 58kg weight class to Columbia’s Jhon Garrido Reyes 2-0.
“We are always trying to one up each other in this family and that’s what makes us so successful,” laughed big-sister Skylar. “Seriously though, I’m super proud of that bronze for my brother Tae-Ku, and Braven, who is the baby of the family was so close so I’m so proud of them both. I may have won the gold today, but today was definitely a win for the whole family.”
Canada’s Ashley Kraayeveld came up one match short in her quest to get on the Pan American Games podium in her second straight Games after dropping the bronze-medal fight in the women’s 67kg division.
The 31-year-old Torontonian advanced to the quarter-finals after her opponent was disqualified.
Toronto’s Kraayeveld finished just off the podium after losing a defensive 12-4 affair to Columbia’s Katherine Dumar. Kraayeveld, a Registered Nurse, earned a spot in the semis with a 2-0 decision over Mexico’s Itzel Velazquez Ceceliano. After losing 2-1 to Mexico’s Leslie Soltero Garcia, Kraayeveld, headed to the bronze medal match where she lost 2-0 to hometown hero, Claudia Gallardo Llancaman.
Canada’s Angelique Orozco lost her opening round match 2-0 in the women’s 49kg category. Charlelie Mercier also lost his first match 2-0 in the men’s 80kg division.
Canada’s Poomsae athletes of Jinsu Ha and Valerie Ho were fifth on Sunday in the mixed poomsae pairs competition with a score of 7.560.
Mexico won the event at 7.920. Nicaragua was second with a total of 7.880 followed by Puerto Rico in third at 7.600.
A complete schedule and results can be tracked at https://results-santiago2023.org/#/schedule/daily/2023-10-22
About Taekwondo Canada:
Taekwondo Canada is the National Sport Governing Body for Taekwondo in Canada. We are recognized by World Taekwondo, Pan American Taekwondo Union, and are members of the Canadian Olympic Committee, and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Taekwondo Canada is supported by Sport Canada. Taekwondo Canada sends national teams to the Olympic Games, World Taekwondo Championships, Pan Am Taekwondo Championships, Pan Am Games, World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Poomsae World Championships, and Pan Am Poomsae Championships.