SOUTHAMPTON, UK – When Jeamy Navarro-Schrank was eight years old, her parents wanted her to participate in an extra-curricular activity outside of school. They enrolled her in a ballet class, but she did not last long.
After only three weeks, the British-born German-Pinay, now 11, knew it was not for her. "I didn't really like it -- all the prancing around", Jeamy said.
Her father, Yan Schrank, reveals the experience even managed to reduce his daughter to tears. "She didn't want to wear the dress, she absolutely hated ballet. She just didn't want to go", he said.
Following her short-lived stint in a tutu, Jeamy accompanied a friend to a taekwondo class and instantly fell in love with the Korean martial art.
Two years down the line, Jeamy claimed the title of British National Champion before striking gold in her first international tournament a week later at the Swedish Open.
She has since gone on a prolific run, amassing a collection of medals from tournaments including the 2010 Bulgaria Open, the 2011 Park Cup in Germany and 2011 Croatia Open. Her most recent triumph was at the 2012 Trelleborg Open in Sweden, which ran from February 11-12.
|Jeamy Navarro-Schrank in action at the Bulgaria Open in October 2010. Photo courtesy of the Navarro-Schrank family.
British Taekwondo South (BTS) coach Gareth Brown, also a coach for Great Britain's Junior National Team, has been training Jeamy for the past few years. He has watched her blossom into one of the most gifted fighters of her generation.
"As a fighter she is very, very self-motivated. She sets herself goals and targets and I've seen her achieve those goals within the last three years. Her progression is very quick as a taekwondo athlete. She's very knowledgeable, very intelligent when in the middle of a match," Brown said.
It is Jeamy's aim to one day represent Great Britain in a taekwondo event at the Olympic games. Her dream recently took a huge leap towards reality when she was called-up to train alongside other young talents in the National Cadet Team.
Asked how far she could go, Brown replied, "An Olympic gold medal, without a shadow of a doubt. I really, honestly believe that.
"I've worked with top-level athletes from a young age. I've had 11 year olds to 13 year olds that have gone on to immense success, to Olympic games, to world-class medals. Jeamy has got that capability. She's already achieving medals at the age she is now, on a consistent basis. It's not one or two every year. She is consistently medaling in five to six competitions in a row. Winning matches, not just medaling, but winning matches to win those medals, which is important to say because when you're that age sometimes you can compete in an age category and walk into a semi-final position, but her weight [class] is very competitive," he said.
"When it comes to kicking ability in the ring, I would say there is not one kick that she dominates with. There is not one thing she prefers. She will kick either side, from the front, from the back, and as she gets older she will be awesome," said Brown, who represented the Great Britain team from 1997 to 2003.
Aside from a devastating array of kicks, Brown feels the key to Jeamy's success lies in her determination, professional attitude and speed of thought.
"For her age group she thinks quick within a match. If you go up to Olympic level your thought process has to be split-second processes and she already has that process now," he said.
"She has definitely got a winning temperament. She does not like to lose, which is something you look for as a coach. If an athlete walks off the ring having lost a match and it's not too bad for them, then the drive is maybe not there. She doesn't like losing. She wants to understand it as well. She wants to figure out what's gone wrong. She asks for feedback and goes away to works on areas she needs to develop," Brown added.
Jeamy trains six days a week and joins the National Cadet Team in Manchester during school holidays. Although taekwondo takes up most of her time, Jeamy does not mind the sacrifice and just wants to continue improving.
When asked how she handles all the expectation, Jeamy replied, "Well, it's not really an expectation for me. It's my goal, it was me who started the whole Olympic thing. I just want to get up there and join the Olympics."
Despite the obvious dangers of participating in a combative sport, Jeamy's parents support their daughter's choice. However, it does not stop them from worrying.
"I tend to be very nervous before competitions," her father Yan said.
"It is a contact sport, injuries do happen. Hopefully, the idea is to get her to a level that's good enough so she's at the giving end, rather than the receiving end, but it is always worrying yes, definitely," he added.
In February last year, Jeamy turned heads en route to winning a silver medal at the 2011 US Open -- the largest open taekwondo championship in the world. She was eager to go for gold this year, but an injury to her left heel prevented Jeamy from competing in the tournament, recently held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"It's a bit disappointing but I have to look at the long run. I'd rather miss one tournament than do rubbish in a whole load," Jeamy said.
According to her father, Jeamy is currently nursing an injury brought on by Severs Disease, which is common among young athletes. The injury is not expected to keep her out of action for long though. If deemed fit, Jeamy will be competing in the Belgian Open under team BTS this March.
To further her development, Yan also revealed he may take Jeamy to the Far-East at some point, so she can test herself against some of her Asian counterparts.
In June next year, Jeamy will be hoping to make her British National Team debut at the European Championships in Romania.
Jeamy, who turns 12 this March, is aiming to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games.