Never Give Up

Published on 13 March 2018

At the age of nine, P3 student Lauren Albertina told her mom she wanted to become a ninja. Today, she is working toward a career in pharmacy, but she is also fulfilling that nine-year-old’s ninja dreams.

“I was always interested in sports and dance, but I wanted to do something that my mom and I could do together,” she said. “I told my mom I wasn’t graceful enough for dance and wanted to become a ninja. We both fell in love with taekwondo.”

Becoming skilled in taekwondo isn’t just about physicality, it’s about discipline in everyday life. Albertina’s master instructor, who served as a bodyguard to the South Korean president, taught her to live by the tenets of taekwondo which include courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. He also encouraged her to memorize Korean numbers and phrases and explained that the sport is centered on maintaining a mental fortitude.

“When I started in taekwondo, my master instructor instilling traditional Korean values in me helped me learn to appreciate other cultures,” she said. “As a pharmacist, I yearn to learn more about my patients and their culture so that we can collectively work on their treatment regimen together.”

By the time she reached high school, Albertina had earned a second-degree black belt. To obtain her black belt, Albertina had to do one hundred push ups, sit ups, jumping roundhouse kicks and Korean bows. She then had to break a brick and write a paper explaining what each belt color represented in her training.

“For me, the different belt colors represent the path and progression of the art of taekwondo,” she said. “You put all of yourself into this sport so that you can lead others. Success in taekwondo is about more than just me. It is an honor to share my knowledge and skills with others.”

During her freshman year at the College, Albertina took a step back from the sport, but she never stopped living by the tenets of taekwondo. While attending the Arnold Fitness Expo in 2015, she witnessed a taekwondo tournament.

“Watching the match lit a fire under me,” she said. “I told myself, I’m going to compete in this tournament next year.”

The following October, Albertina signed up for a local tournament and was one of the only competitors without a coach. As she entered the ring, a coach in attendance asked if she would like some guidance.

“I ended up winning my first match,” Albertina said. “I don’t know how I won, because it was a completely different style of fighting from what I was used to. At that time, taekwondo had transitioned from traditional fighting to a more modern style.”

Albertina placed in the tournament which meant she qualified for the state tournament. With the help of the coach who guided her during her first match, she set a goal to train three days per week in Troy, Missouri.

“With it being an hour drive, I listened to my therapeutics lectures on the way there and back,” she said. “I worked hard to make lifting weights and going to practice a priority so that I could manage my schoolwork and taekwondo schedules.”

At the Missouri state championships, Albertina faced the 2014 Junior Olympic champion of Nanjing, China. During the match, she took several rapid kicks to the face breaking the orbital plate of her left eye socket. She ended up qualifying for nationals even after her injury and went on to qualify in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio.

At nationals, Albertina ended up competing against the number one seed in her division and lost in the first round. Her opponent went on to win nationals and compete at team trials for the chance to become a United States national team member.

“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there is always going to be more to achieve, but it is more about setting my sights on something bigger than myself,” she said. “Shifting my perspective from an outcome-based perspective to a process-based one has helped me outside of taekwondo. I am proud to have made it as far as I have and will continue to persevere toward my ultimate goal of competing at team trials.”

Albertina is hopeful the discipline she learned in her training will make her a better pharmacist.

“Taekwondo has taught me how to push myself,” she said. “It is my hope that my experience will help me encourage my patients to achieve their own health goals.”

This spring, Albertina will compete at state qualifiers in Kansas and Michigan and is set to compete at the 2018 USA Taekwondo National Championships this summer.

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