Jackie celebrates her victory over Maria Espinoza of Mexico for the gold medal in the women's +67kg final during the 2015 Pan Am Games
Twenty-year-old Jackie Galloway became the first U.S. qualifier for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in December by virtue of her placement in the World Taekwondo Federation’s Olympic Rankings. In doing so, she became the first heavyweight (+67 kg.), male or female, to earn a spot on a U.S. Olympic Team since taekwondo became an official sport in 2000. She first began practicing taekwondo at age 7 at a dojo run by her parents in Garland, Texas. When she beat the Mexican world champion at a 2010 event, the dual-citizen ended up making that country’s national team. At age 14, she was the youngest athlete in Mexico national team history. However, after two years of living and training in Mexico City, Galloway returned to Texas and joined Team USA after the London 2012 Games. She also juggles a full-time academic load as a sophomore mechanical engineering major at Southern Methodist University, where she has also competed on the school’s rowing team. She is coached by her father, Gary Galloway. In this month's feature interview, Galloway talks about heading to her first Olympic Games in Rio...
Q: Describe the feeling you had when you learned you qualified for your first Olympic Team.
Jackie: I was overwhelmed with emotion. In that moment everything I had worked toward had come together. It was the first time in my taekwondo career I felt I could say "I made it," that I had accomplished something I set out to do since I was 7 years old. I still have more work to do to make my goal a reality, but that was the first step in the process.
Q: Did you get to travel to the 2012 London Games four years ago as an alternate for Mexico?
Jackie: I did not get to travel to the London Games. I was simply the alternate and was available just in case any thing happened to the team member.
Q: What did you learn from that experience that you will apply in Rio?
Jackie: From my experience as being alternate, although I did not get to physically be in London, I will apply the fact that anything can happen in just a few seconds. The difference between team member and alternate, the difference between gold and silver, will be determined in a manner of a few seconds. So I need to be engaged and focused every moment of every match.
Q: You've said before that one of your heroes is Muhammad Ali. What about him inspired you?
Jackie: His work ethic and his system of belief in himself is what inspires me. The one thing that has never faltered for me is my internal belief in myself. That has been what has carried me this far. So reading his quotes and seeing his story has been truly inspiring.
Jackie's father and coach, Gary, helps her prepare for a match in her early competition days
Q: Talk about the role your family has played in your development as an athlete
Jackie: My family has played a crucial role in my development. I would not be the athlete I am today without my family. My father is my coach, my brother and my boyfriend are my training partners, and my mom is the loudest one in the stands. I could not do it without them. They don't just play a role, they are my system and infrastructure of training and development.
Q: What experience are you most looking forward to at the Rio Games?
Jackie: I am most looking forward to stepping into the ring...to the moment where I get to put together all of my hard work and impose my will against my opponent.
Q: Why is the color purple so important to you?
Jackie: The color purple releases a special feeling in me. It helps me feel empowered and strong. I feel that it is a strong color with a strong energy.
Q: Who do you see as your toughest competition at the Rio Games?
Jackie: Everyone in my division is tough. The biggest challenge will be to solve every puzzle in front of me efficiently and effectively. It is a challenge that I am looking forward to. That challenge is why I love this sport.
Jackie addresses the media at the USOC Olympic Media Summit in Beverly Hills, Calif., in March
Q: How many family members and friends will be with you in Rio?
Jackie: Twelve! My father and brother will be with me in preparation beforehand and the rest of my family will be there when I compete.
Q: In your mind's eye, how do you envision your competition day of August 20 playing out?
Jackie: I visualize myself on the top of the podium. I envision myself solving the puzzles and seizing the opportunities without hesitation.
Jackie envisions herself raising the American flag in triumph in Rio on August 20.
Now it's on to the speed round...
Six words to describe you?
JG: Determined, passionate, goofy, caring, dorky, strong.
Proudest moment in your taekwondo career?
JG: My proudest moment is when I won my first Grand Prix, becoming the first and only American to take home gold in the Grand Prix series.
Foods you can't live without?
JG: Thai food, coffee.
One food you detest?
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Hardest lesson you've learned?
JG: Don't stand on the edge of the ring with two seconds left.
Favorite American city?
One item you can't travel without?
Any superstitions or good luck charms?
JG: My necklace and ring from my boyfriend, and Superman socks.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
A younger Jackie with a gold and shiny medallion...a portent of things to come in Rio?
What is your dream vacation?
Favorite social media site?
One website you visit every day?
Favorite TV show?
JG: "American Horror Story".
JG: "Step Brothers".
Favorite pro sports team?
JG: Don't have one.
All-time favorite video game or board game?
JG: Mortal Kombat.
Best birthday or Christmas present you ever received?
JG: Don't really have one.
Most memorable Halloween costume?
JG: When I was 13 or so I was Trinity from "The Matrix".
Do you have a secret talent?
JG: I can make my tongue do a little W thing.
Your most famous relative?
JG: Don't really have one.
If you could be on any game show, which would it be?
JG: "The Amazing Race".
Coffee or tea?
City or country?
Dogs or cats?
Zoo or art gallery?
JG: Art gallery.
Morning person or night owl?
JG: Neither. I'm sleepy.