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Taekwondo Fighter From Plantation Is Representing Haiti In The Tokyo Olympics

Aliya Shipman poses with her leg in the air
Aliyah Shipman
Aliyah Shipman, a Taekwondo fighter from Plantain, Florida, is the only athlete representing Haiti in the Tokyo Olympics.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial arts that isn’t normally associated with Haiti or Muslim girls. But now an 18-year-old Plantation native will compete in the Tokyo Olympics in Taekwondo for Team Haiti.

Aliyah Shipman is often one of the youngest athletes in the women's 67 kg category. The welterweight fighter, who is Muslim and Haitian American, recently came back from Bulgaria and Turkey after competing against some fierce competition, “in the range of top 10 in the world.”

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The Olympic qualifier says her competitive field included some of the most advanced athletes she had fought to date. And now she has bigger goals for Tokyo.

“My dad is actually Haitian. And I wanted to kinda like go back to my roots. And Haiti doesn’t have a lot of representation in sports so I really wanted to just represent the country," Shipman said.

Aniya Louissaint was the last Taekwondo athlete to represent Haiti in the Olympics, during the 2016 games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Shipman will be the only athlete in just one sport to represent Haiti in the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in late July. Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto says the games will not be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The local martial arts community is supporting her in full force.

“I’ve actually been to Haiti one time since I qualified. I’m planning to go again soon,” Shipman said. “I’m just getting a lot of positive responses. I’m very happy — everyone is happy that Taekwondo has a representation in the Olympics for Haiti.”

Shipman is also the daughter of an Indian mother. She said as a 9-year old “chubby kid” trying to lose weight, she was inspired by a classmate who trained in Karate — but her mother helped her decide on Taekwondo.

She trains at the I-Fight Mohamed Ali’s Martial Arts & Fitness Center in Sunrise with a coach, Mohamed Ali Melghagh, who she described like a "second father."

"Spending hours a day training together - mental preparation, technique, running, just everything to get my body ready," said Shipman. “I do weight lifting. We watch fights together. We have to do a full package in order to make me the best fighter I can be."

After making the national team in Haiti two years ago, Shipman defeated a Colombian and Dominican fighter at the 2020 Pan American Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The victories solidified her spot on the roster for the Tokyo Games. Shipman, who is currently studying Finance and Accounting at the University of Miami, says she also wants to be a beacon of hope for young Muslim girls across South Florida.

“A lot of girls, especially in the Muslim community, don’t branch out or try to do sports especially like a form of self-defense,” Shipman said. “So I’m happy to be kinda like a pioneer, maybe for even Muslim girls just in my community to try something new, get active.”

Wilkine Brutus is a reporter and producer for WLRN and a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute. The South Florida native produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs.