INTERVIEW: Olympic hopeful Jordyn Smith goes from Falkirk district's Central Academy to Tae Kwon Do Team GB in Manchester
Jordyn Smith's sliding doors moment came when she was just four years old.
Taken to TaeKwonDo classes by her dad, Darren, who feared the red-haired youngster would be bullied for her hair colour, after her fourth and final free session with Central Academy in Carronshore, the ultimatum was made.
She had cried for the three previous visits together, another tear-stained taster session and they wouldn’t go back.
“Something changed in me that night,” says Jordyn, just minutes before the taxi arrived to take her on a journey which should, all being well, reach Tokyo and the Olympics in two years time. “I could have given up. At first I didn’t enjoy it because of the loud shouts and noises but I decided to keep going after that fourth night.”
It was make or break. That night and that decision made along the road from the family’s Carronshore home at Central Academy has shaped not just Jordyn’s path in life, but that of the Smith family.
Darren joined up too. After little sister Teighan was born mum Shona followed. All four have become black belts including Teighan who also travels to Manchester, but at weekends, for training. She’s heading down this weekend for Team GB trials and it’ll be an early visit for Jordan who left home on Tuesday. She’ll move into the British Taekwondo under-18s house and train three days a week alongside the likes of Olympian Jade Jones with the view of reaching the Olympics in Tokyo.
“I’ll miss them, but I’m used to being away a lot at competitions,” she told The Falkirk Herald. “My mum’s been testing me on household chores like helping the washing, changing the beds, all that I’ll need that when I’m down, but I’m used to being away from the family for Tae Kwon Do.
“I’ve been down to Manchester before for visits and it made me realise, The lifestyle down there, I love it and this is what I want, I know how hard I have to work to achieve my goal.”
Her most recent trip away from home was to Eindhoven in Holland where she won the Dutch Open, a fitting finale to her spell as a Central TKD Junior, with dad Darren in her corner.
Next time she’s in competition, she’ll do so with a Team GB coach as a funded athlete on the road to the Olympics.
“It was a nice way to end that chapter if you like,” said mum Shona. “Darren took her along to the first sessions and they’re very close. They’ve been training together for the last five years.
“She has the Youth Olympics later this year, if she qualifies. She will be in Manchester three days a week, back at Larbert High for two until she does her Highers. The school have been really supportive.”
The family have also supported Jordyn from those early days, building a gym in the back garden, investing in equipment and funding trips to competitions at home and abroad. Plus regular trips to Manchester and the national centre of excellence.
Shona added: “She gave up dancing, gave up swimming all to do more and more taekwondo classes and training - all since that one last time, she’s never looked back.
“It was make or break.”
Jordyn added: “I’ve got to say thank you to Master David Bailey and Angie Bailey for pushing me to my limits and fulfilling my goals. And to my mum and dad and family for supporting me through it all.”
And there’s been a lot up to now – 2014 Commonwealth Champion; bronze at the worlds, European champion, four Scottish titles and British champion too. Just as well then, that she made that decision aged just four when her dad took her along to build her confidence.
And she adds: “I’ve still never come up against another red-haired Tae Kwon Do player!”