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A UofGH Kinesiology student striking her way to the top

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As a Taekwondo black belt who has struck gold on the international stage, University of Guelph-Humber Kinesiology student Erika Caldwell does not need to look far to see the lessons of her education in action.

Caldwell, a third-year student, has won a gold medal in the Korean martial art and this Fall represented Canada in the 2018 World Championships in Taipei, Taiwan.

Juggling the training and preparation required to compete at a world-class level with a full-time course load was not necessarily easy, but Caldwell has found that pursuing an education in Kinesiology and a high-level martial-arts career have been mutually beneficial. Both in school and in the dojang, Caldwell aims high.

“I’m a very competitive person and I love to set goals for myself,” she said. “Being in Kinesiology, I apply the things that I learn in class to my own athletic performance and training, to help me improve, to try to always beat other people and beat my own personal records.”

The road to a black belt

Caldwell first tried taekwondo when she was 10 years old, after her mom encouraged her to learn a new sport and acquire self-defence skills. After an eight-week program in Toronto, Caldwell was hooked.

Her first international competition was the 2015 junior Pan Am Championships in Mexico, where her team secured a bronze medal.

More recently, she competed at the 2018 Senior Pan Am Championships in Spokane, Wash. This time, her team won gold.

Certainly, situations such as these – when all of Caldwell’s subtle movements are under close scrutiny – are daunting, but she has grown accustomed to handling the pressure.

"It’s definitely very nerve-racking,” she said. “But once you get up there and you’re competing, your mind goes blank and you don’t think about anything else. When you finish, you just hope you did your best, and you’re nervous and excited to see your score.”

“It’s a really good feeling when your results come through and you know how hard you worked to get there.”

Hitting all her targets

Erika practicing Taekwondo

The origin of Caldwell’s interest in Kinesiology can also be traced to her martial arts practice.

When she was in Grade 10, she sprained her ankle in competition. She had already broken the same ankle at a much earlier age, and now learned it had never healed properly. The recovery process was motivational in more ways than one.

“I went through a big rehab plan with various treatments and exercises,” she recalled. “That definitely got me interested in the field of Kinesiology, and the wide variety of careers that are available to you in that field.”

Although her coursework and training occupy much of Caldwell’s time, she has made a point of getting involved on campus. She is a member of the Kinesiology Society, she is involved with the Exercise is Medicine on Campus program, and she was part of a contingent of UofGH Kinesiology students who volunteered over the summer at the Masters Indigenous Games.

“My experience at the University of Guelph-Humber has been amazing. There are so many ways to get involved,” she said.

The Kinesiology program has been a perfect fit for Caldwell. With courses exploring exercise prescription, injury treatment, nutrition, and exercise physiology, Caldwell finds herself immersed in an environment that helps her on a daily basis in her training.

“Since starting in the Kinesiology program, I’ve learned so many different things that have helped my training and athletic performance,” she said.