Paige McPherson, 20, of Sturgis, S.D., qualified for her third straight U.S. National Team in January and will represent the U.S. in the female welterweight division at the 2011 World Taekwondo Championships in Gyeongju, Korea, May 1-6. In February she won the silver medal at the U.S. Open in the welterweight class. McPherson trains under three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic silver medalist Juan Moreno at Peak Performance in Miami, Fla.
Paige answered the following 10 questions for this month's USAT Athlete Profile...
 
Q1: What are you studying in college and what would you like to do with your degree?
PAIGE McPHERSON: I am not taking classes this semester, because I want to be able to just focus on training, since I still have a chance to qualify myself for 2012 Olympics. I mostly work at Abercrombie & Fitch and train at Peak in the evenings. However, I am going to study business management and hopefully one day manage my own restaurant, photography studio, retail store, or some type of business I decide on pursuing.
Q2: What are your short-term and long-term goals in taekwondo?
PAIGE McPHERSON: My short-term goals in TaeKwonDo are medaling and/or qualifying myself for Pan Am Games, World Championships, and World Qualifier. My ultimate and now not so long-term goal in TaeKwonDo is to become, by God's grace, a 2012 Olympian. My longest-term goal is to continue to mature in the sport, and gain all the experience I can, so that I can bring credit and honor to my country as long as God allows it.

Paige (2nd from left) at the Olympic Trials with Talina Le, Seth Wolfe and Nicole Palma
Q3: You moved from South Dakota to Miami a few years ago. What’s it like to train with so many National Team members and under three-time Olympian Juan Moreno?
PAIGE McPHERSON: My first class in Miami I was very overwhelmed and felt like I wasn't capable of keeping up with Team Miami.  Now I have definitely become accustomed to the strenuous training, yet I know that I still have a lot of learning to do. I am very privileged to be training with some of the best athletes and one of the best coaches in the world.

Paige (r) with her Peak Performance teammates
Q4: What was the culture shock like in moving from South Dakota to Florida?
PAIGE McPHERSON: Everything in the beginning overwhelmed me. People speaking different languages, different cultures and religions, diversity, more available resources, and more were all very shocking. I came from a state where there is more livestock than people to a city that you can basically meet any type of person in the world.

Paige (2nd from right) at the beach with some taekwondo friends
Q5: Do you have any hobbies that you feel benefit your taekwondo training, either mentally or physically?
PAIGE McPHERSON: Dance is what I think really gave me an edge in TaeKwonDo. Timing, rhythm, flexibility, and explosiveness are some benefits from 14 years of dance.
Q6: If you could trade places with one person in the world, who would it be and why?
PAIGE McPHERSON: If I could trade places with someone, I would not choose a particular person.  I would choose a person who lives a life that would make me want to choose my own. Maybe a person without a loving family, no food to eat, or no success in their hopes and dreams. A person that cannot walk, talk, see, or hear. Why? So that the experience would humble and make me thankful for who I am and what a great life God has given to me.
Q7: What’s something you made as a kid that you are still proud of till this day?
PAIGE McPHERSON: When I was 8 yrs old, I made a two-layered birthday cake for my nephew's 6th birthday. I was so proud because I made it from scratch, and he loved it because the cake had drawings of fish on it.
 
Q8: What is one thing that you cannot live without?
PAIGE McPHERSON: I would not be the person I am today without my God and family. I cannot live without them.
 
Paige's parents
 
Q9: What’s your favorite holiday?
PAIGE McPHERSON: My favorite holiday is Christmas, the day when my loving Savior, Jesus Christ was born. A time where my family is together celebrating each other's company, good food, and presents.
 
Q10: Do you have any pre-competition superstitions or rituals?
PAIGE McPHERSON: The night before competition I always try to eat something light (salad). The day I fight I always put my hair into a french braid and I always read my favorite verse, Proverbs 3:5&6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path."
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Past Athlete Profiles
February 2011 - Luke Ford
January 2011 - Nicole Palma
December 2010 - Michael Detmering
November 2010 - Kelly VanDrisse
October 2010 - Jason Delgadillo
September 2010 - Kathy Rodriguez
August 2010 - Graziano Mungo
July 2010 - Ally Creel
June 2010 - Alexander Ahlstrom
May 2010 - Cheyenne Lewis
April 2010 - Seth Wolfe
March 2010 - Carolena Carstens
February 2010 - Jason Neville
January 2010 - Lilian Angel
December 2009 - Ron Southwick

November 2009 - Taylor Brennan
October 2009 - Terrence Jennings
September 2009 - Victoria Stambaugh
August 2009 - Justin Wang
July 2009 - Danielle Holmquist
June 2009 - Kristopher Uy
May 2009 - Chelsea Keiser
Apr. 2009 - Anthony Bell
Mar. 2009 - Amie Szymanski
Feb. 2009 - Brian Gallagher
Jan. 2009 - Shaina Krause
Dec. 2008 - Matt Dunlap
Nov. 2008 - Madison Motoyasu
Oct. 2008 - Rudford Hamon
Sept. 2008 - Alexandra Cinque