British martial artist Bianca Walkden is celebrating winning a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Tokyo Olympics last month. Walkden previously won a bronze medal for taekwondo at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and vowed to get the gold in Tokyo. However, the 29-year-old martial artist’s dreams were cut short in the closing seconds of a semi-final bout. Just as the final buzzer sounded, Walkden’s opponent, Lee Da-bin of South Korea, landed a crescent kick on Walkden, putting her out of the running for the gold medal match.
In an interview with GiveMeSport Women, Walkden described her utter disappointment at not qualifying for the final match, saying that her goal going into Tokyo was nothing less than a gold medal. Despite being shaken up by the loss against the Da-bin, Walkden did not allow the setback to stop her from standing on the medal podium. A mere four hours later, Walkden was back in the ring, this time against the Polish taekwondo practitioner Aleksandra Kowalczuk. Walkden was able to defeat Kowalczuk 7 to 3, securing the bronze medal for the United Kingdom.
In looking back at her bout with Kowalczuk, Walkden said that her biggest challenge was overcoming her shock at being defeated by Da-bin. The three-time winner of the Taekwondo World Championship said that she fought through her loss by realizing that she would have more regrets if she did not bring her A-game to the bronze medal match. Echoing what she tells her students, Walkden says that taekwondo is not just about having goals but having a good mindset as well.
Walkden says she hopes to win her elusive gold medal next time she competes at the Paris Olympics in 2024. While Walkden might hope for gold in Paris, she also looks forward to competing in front of family and friends. Walkden described the Tokyo Games’ prohibition against audiences as a hindrance for most athletes, but nevertheless sees the event itself as a sign that the world is coming back from the pandemic. Calling the games a “light at the end of the tunnel,” Walkden feels that sports will help the world heal from COVID-19 as they give people a chance to get behind each other’s backs.
Looking back on the Tokyo Games, Walkden also lauded fellow Olympians Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for calling attention to mental health concerns plaguing athletes. Walkden thanked Biles and Osaka for reducing the stigma around mental health. Walkden also voiced her own support for mental health initiatives, saying that mental health and happiness go hand-in-hand.