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First-Time Olympian Jackie Galloway Looks To Win Gold In Taekwondo

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It takes a lot of talent and hard work to make the Olympic team, but it also takes a good support network. Twenty-year-old Jackie Galloway has all three. She will compete at the Rio Games for Team USA in taekwondo. As Courtney Collins of member station KERA in Dallas reports, Galloway is part of a taekwondo dynasty.

COURTNEY COLLINS, BYLINE: When you first meet Jackie Galloway, you notice the giant smile, the painted toenails and the delicate braid woven into her ponytail. Watch her train, and you see the other side of Jackie. She's a fighter - a really good one.

AUSTIN GALLOWAY: She kicks hard.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: Her younger brother Austin holds the bag Jackie is currently pummeling. He's a nationally ranked black belt himself and her official Olympic training partner.

A taekwondo sparring match is three two-minute rounds. A basic kick to the body is worth a point. One to the head is worth three.

JACKIE GALLOWAY: Spin technique called a back kick is three points, or an offensive turning kick is also three points.

COLLINS: Jackie is a first-time Olympian. She was an alternate four years ago. She's excited to go to Rio, but to her, the cameras, the crowds, the electrifying opening ceremonies - it's all just distraction. She has one goal, and it's simple.

J. GALLOWAY: I'm not going there just to participate and be another face in the crowd. I'm there to bring home the gold.

COLLINS: And this Southern Methodist University sophomore takes a brainy approach to the sport.

J. GALLOWAY: I study engineering, so I kind of enjoy puzzles and problem solving. It's very strategic, but it's very competitive, so that competitive killer instinct inside of me has an outlet to get out and perform.

COLLINS: That's how she's always been, her dad says. She doesn't hope for a win. She knows she can get one. She isn't worried about losing. That thought just doesn't cross her mind. Her Twitter handle is @ikick-urface. For the Galloways, this is a family business.

GARY GALLOWAY: I remember at 14, she fought her first woman and knocked the lady out.

COLLINS: Dad Gary is also Jackie's coach. He was also trained by his dad and came close to being an Olympian himself. At age 35, Gary just missed making the 2008 team.

G. GALLOWAY: You attack from out of distance, and you work on your face kicks on motion for me.

COLLINS: Gary Galloway's ultimate goal was always passing this sport onto his children. He says Jackie's commitment and confidence make her stand out, which is why in Rio, he'll focus more on being coach than dad.

G. GALLOWAY: It's maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that many, many people don't get, but we're just not really focused on that part of it right now. I'll try to find some time - maybe closing ceremonies - to take it all in, but until then, I - she's on a mission. And you know, I'm trying to help her take the next step.

COLLINS: And that's how Jackie wants it. The Olympics - just another tournament, just another opportunity to put all that exhausting training to good use.

J. GALLOWAY: I also look at it as all the hard work I've done, I'm going to put on somebody, you know? I'm going to remember that time where I was crying and hurt, and I'm going to make someone feel that because I went through a lot to get there.

COLLINS: And she plans to put her opponents through a lot at the Olympics. It's not about the experience or the honor of competing. It's about winning. Jackie Galloway is headed to Rio with ice in her veins and gold on the brain. For NPR News, I'm Courtney Collins in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.