Faith DillonTaekwondoNews

Taekwondo Standout Faith Dillon Riding High Heading Into First Olympic Experience

by Drew Silverman

(L-R) Faith Dillon, Zongshi Luo (China) and Aaliyah Powell (Great Britain) pose with their medals at the 2023 World Taekwondo Grand Prix Finals on Dec. 2, 2023 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Getty Images)

Faith Dillon paused the interview to adjust her response.

When asked about her potential in taekwondo and what heights she can reach in her career, the 21-year-old Dillon initially answered, “I think I’m an Olympic gold medalist.”

Then, she paused.

“Wait,” she said. “I am an Olympic gold medalist. Let’s put it that way.”

Dillon’s power of positive thinking will be put to the ultimate test this summer at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, where she will compete for Team USA in the 57 kg. category after months of trying to qualify.

“It’s been a long year, a stressful time,” said Dillon, who finally punched her ticket to Paris at the Pan Am qualification tournament in April. “I didn’t have a big reaction to winning my qualification fight. It felt like a weight off my shoulders. I felt very relieved that I qualified. Now there’s only one thing left to do.”

Dillon’s taekwondo tale began unconventionally. When she was 4 or 5 years old, she was watching a Jackie Chan cartoon and mentioned to her father that she wanted to be just like the Hong Kong-born martial artist and action star. She didn’t think much of the comment at the time, but in retrospect, it changed her life more than anything she’s ever said.

“After that, he just put me in taekwondo,” Faith recalled, “and I haven’t stopped since.”

Needless to say, taekwondo was not a popular sport among her friends at the time. They were more into soccer and swimming — sports Dillon competed in, too, along with basketball. But when it came time to concentrate on a single pastime, she wasn’t faced with a tough decision.

“Taekwondo was the only one that stuck with me,” said Dillon, who was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and raised in Las Vegas. “My heart has always been in it. I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent naturally talented. It’s taken a lot of hard work and a lot of training.”

Indeed, Dillon’s dream certainly has taken its toll, physically and mentally. She trains five days a week, often multiple times a day. Yet, the hard work is actually what she loves most about taekwondo.

(L-R) Faith Dillon competes against Luana Martonof (Hungary) during the women's -57 kg. at the 2023 World Taekwondo Grand Prix Finals on Dec. 2, 2023 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Getty Images)

“There’s no cheating your way to success in this sport,” she said. “You have to be dedicated to it 24/7, all year round, because there’s no offseason. Everything you do has to be centered around it. It’s a weight sport and it’s an individual sport, but it’s a beautiful thing. You don’t only grow as an athlete. You grow as a person.”

Around age 17, Dillon left her parents’ house and moved into her own place. The move elevated her maturity — and, in turn, her growth as a person — to a whole new level.

“I’ve changed so much since I moved out of the house and fully committed to the sport,” Dillon said. “I still have support from my parents, but being completely away, having to pay your own bills, go grocery shopping on your own, motivating yourself for training — it’s huge, it’s a big difference. Once you move away, you realize it’s not your parents’ dream any more. It’s your dream.”

That mindset is a large reason why Dillon’s upward trajectory in taekwondo will culminate in Paris this summer.

“It’s going to hit my heart,” Dillon admitted. “I’m a very emotional person. I think I’m going to be bawling my eyes out. To support my country in the Olympics, that’s amazing.”

Dillon acknowledged that she’s trying her best to stay in the moment. She’s excited, naturally, for the experience and, in particular, for the opportunity to go to the Olympics with three other USA taekwondo standouts — CJ Nickolas, Kristina Teachout and Jonathan Healy — who she has known for years.

“We’ve all grown up together,” Dillon said. “It’s going to be a great experience, no matter what happens.”

Additionally, Dillon is looking forward to enjoying the full Olympic experience.

“We’re really in our little taekwondo bubble,” she explained, “so it’s going to be great to see all the other sports and meet other athletes with shared goals who left their whole life behind to fight for Team USA. It’s going to be very exciting.”

Dillon has already seen photos of the arena where she’ll compete in Paris — the Grand Palais — and noted that her parents will be there as her biggest and loudest fans. If Dillon walks out of that dream scenario wearing a gold medal around her neck, it will be the highlight of a career that, while still in its early stages, clearly possesses unlimited potential.

“I feel very blessed,” Dillon said. “I was born in America and raised in America. Both my parents, as well. I couldn’t be happier. Wearing the red, white and blue is amazing. Even putting on our track suits really sparks my heart. I can’t explain it. It’s just joy.”