Skylar Park's last two pre-Olympic competitions have gone off without a hitch.
On Friday, the 22-year-old Winnipeg taekwondoist defeated all comers to claim the gold medal in the women's 57-kilogram division at the Pan Am Championships in Cancun, Mexico. Three days later at the same venue, she earned her way to the final of the 62-kg division at the Mexico Open before declining to fight for gold.
The decision to settle for a silver was tactical. Jae Park, Skylar's father and coach, calculated the 40 ranking points she earned for the Pan Am title and another six she received for reaching the Open final would maximize the impact on world rankings.
"We just needed a certain amount of points to solidify my seeding for the Olympics," said Skylar Park by phone from Cancun Tuesday. "So now after this event, I think I'm going into the Olympics ranked third. That'll put me in a position for my draw — who I'm fighting first and kind of how the whole draw plays out based on that. And then there was no reason for me to fight just to risk injury."
Park, who was previously ranked fifth, will be well-positioned for the Games podium behind No. 1-ranked Jade Jones, the two-time defending Olympic champion, and No. 2 Hatice Ilgun of Turkey.
"I want to keep fighting, but I think my dad and the head of team here in Mexico for Canada have said that it's kind of good to still have that itch being a month away from the Games," said Park. "I was really happy with my performances yesterday. We tried out a few new things and just building on what we did on Friday.
"Obviously I never like to bow out of a fight or not fight in the finals and I would have loved to but but yeah, we're saving it for Tokyo."
After beating Chile's Fernanda Agüirre in the semifinals and Brazillian Sandy Macedo in the Pan Am final, Park explained the rationale for fighting in a heavier weight class in the Open.
"It was just based on not not having to make the weight again not really having to worry about it," said Park, who will fight in the 57-kg divison at the Olympics. "I knew I needed six points and I would be getting experience fighting some other girls, just because it really would have been the same girls that I would be fighting if I fought in my division again."
Skylar's 20-year-old brother Tae-Ku earned a bronze in the 68-kg men's divison. Younger-brother Braven, 18, was fifth in the 63-kg event.
Cole Vincent, Park's strength and conditioning coach from Winnipeg, was on hand in Mexico to monitor her pre-Olympic preparations
"He was here preparing me before matches and between matches to just kind of activate my body which was really nice, and something I will definitely improve upon and bring into Tokyo," said Park.
Skylar, her father and her brothers will remain in Cancun until Sunday at a training camp for fighters from Pan American and European countries before returning home to begin a 14-day quarantine before leaving once again, this time for Tokyo.
She is scheduled to fight at the Olympics on July 26.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.