Merissa Pico

Merissa Pico

A Lifelong Passion

 

People often ask me how I got into Taekwondo. To which I usually say I started at three years old, and I never stopped. In fact, that is the absolute truth, as I signed up for Taekwondo 14 years ago thinking it would just be an extracurricular activity; however, over the years, Taekwondo has far surpassed being a hobby for me. It has had a great presence in my life, not only when I am training or competing, but also in everyday life as well. Taekwondo has been one of the greatest teachers in my life, and has had a significant impact on who I am today as a person.

My participation in Taekwondo does not only lie in the traditional sphere, but also the “sport” sphere as well. I have been competing in sparring since the age of 5. Fortunately, I have had many successes in Taekwondo. I have won over 250 gold medals, am a two-time “All-American”, four time USA Jr. National Team Member, and was the second alternate for Team USA for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

My Taekwondo schedule can be overwhelming at times with all of the training and competition. However, my mom and coach are always there to support me. If anything, Taekwondo has truly shown me how much my mom and coach care about me. They are always there for me. My coach is not only there for me during training, but also anytime I need his guidance. My mom makes everything that I do in Taekwondo possible. She brings me to training, to tournaments, supports my Taekwondo financially, and she is always there to cheer me on. I could never have pursued my passion for Taekwondo without these two people. Without my mom’s motivation and encouragement, I would not have accomplished what I have in Taekwondo. It is not a team sport so, it is important to have a good support system, for not having one makes it very difficult to succeed.

Also, Taekwondo competition has also provided me with so many opportunities. I have been able to experience many things, which would not have been possible without Taekwondo. It has afforded me to travel all over the world. I have traveled nationally and internationally for competitions and training. I have had tournaments in countries such as the Netherlands, Turkey, and Jamaica. I have also trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs multiple times. I have also been able to see a lot of the United States as well because of Taekwondo. One of the best experiences I have had in Taekwondo was at the 2008 Jr. World Championships. I got to meet other competitors from all over the world. All of those competitors were representing their national teams, just like I was. Also being on US national teams is an experience unlike anything else. Each time I have represented America, I have felt very honored for the opportunity, as well as a tremendous amount of pride. It is always interesting to meet and get to know the other athletes on the team as well. They come from all over, have different backgrounds, and different interests. It is certainly a unique experience to be apart of, and I feel privileged to have had that opportunity.

Taekwondo has taught me many valuable lessons throughout. I can honestly say that I am a better person because of Taekwondo. All of the experiences, whether good, bad, happy, sad, easy, or tough have made me the person I am today, of which I am very proud. The most important thing that I have learned from Taekwondo is to always do my best. There is nothing more essential than doing one’s own best effort. I carry that mentality into anything and everything I do. When I herniated a disk in my back in April 2009, I thought I would not be able to do anything anymore, especially Taekwondo. I could not do anything without pain, sit, stand, walk, etc. Fortunately, I had surgery in the summer that fixed the herniation. However, I was weak after months of inactivity, and I was also depressed because I was out of shape for so long. I started back at Taekwondo shortly after my surgery, and it was extremely difficult. I could hardly do anything, which was to be expected. I just continued to try my best, and by December, I was competing again on a national level. My first competition back was the USA Jr. World Team Trials at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Although I did not win, I was glad to just be out there in the ring again. It was a tough journey getting back to competing from where I had been only a few months prior. I was exceptionally proud of my hard work, and myself and I was thankful and appreciative of my mom and coach. That experience taught me that anything is possible as long as you put the effort in and are motivated.

I look forward to continuing my passion. Mentally and physically, Taekwondo is challenging, but I would not have it any other way. Having tried other martial arts, Taekwondo is definitely my favorite because it is so broad. You can choose to compete on an international level or pursue a ninth Dan or you can do both; there are really no limits. A large part of my life and identity would be empty without Taekwondo. I could not imagine not doing Taekwondo, nor can I fathom not continuing. Taekwondo is a definite lifelong passion of mine.