Britain’s next top taekwondo prospect, Aaliyah Powell’s penchant for performing was forged in the world of street dance.
The 20-year-old has won bronze at the World Championships to confirm her status as the next British superstar in the kicking sport.
But her first love was busting moves and the 20-year-old won a national street dance title with Huddersfield-based club Dance Emporium.
Powell is modest about her achievements but had to choose between two passions, moving to Manchester alone aged 16 to pursue taekwondo.
“I definitely wasn’t the best one, I just did it as a hobby with my friends and stuff,” she said.
“I think it helped me be successful in taekwondo and taught me a lot about commitment more than anything.
“Every week I’d be practising routines over and over and over again until we got it right.
“The main difference between the two is that dance is a team thing and taekwondo is very individual. It’s just you in that ring and you’re the only one who can control that moment.”
The Olympic bug bit when Powell watched her sister share a training facility with Jessica Ennis-Hill and she tried taekwondo on holiday with her cousin aged nine.
Powell’s junior career never gave her the chance to fly under the radar.
2017 brought European junior silver, 2018 world gold and she became the youngest British fighter to win a senior World Championship medal with bronze in Manchester in 2019.
She hit the global podium during the month of her GCSE exams.
She said: “Coming to Manchester aged 16, I had to grow up very quickly and look after myself.
“Most of my friends are only just moving away and they’re struggling being away from their family and not having their mum to do the washing.”
The transition from junior to senior hasn’t been plain sailing, however.
Powell said: “I’ve struggled with injuries a lot. I’ve been in and out of training this year, had rehab and surgeries. I’ve struggled to keep that consistency and momentum.
“There was a lot of expectation on me being a world junior champion. They see the results and you have to deal with other people’s expectations.
“Mentally, it’s definitely made me stronger. It happening while I’m young will help me for the rest of my career and build a strong foundation of mental strength.”
Britain have two world-class fighters in the 57kg category - Powell, and two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones.
Both won world medals in Guadalajara this month with Jones also taking bronze, her fourth global medal, at 57kg while Powell stepped up to 62kg.
62kg is not an Olympic weight category, with the next highest 67kg in which Lauren Williams won silver in Tokyo.
“The more that I raise my game, the more Jade does her best, and we both get better,” said Powell.
“That means when we do get to the Games, we’re getting the best quality athlete possible.
“Jade is a legend of the sport and she’s had an incredible career. She’s dedicated the majority of her life to taekwondo.
“For me, the gold in Paris has been my goal for a few years. We both have the same goal and only one person can do it.
“It doesn’t change what I want or make me think there will be another chance down the line. I don’t want to wait - I’m here now, let’s battle it out.”
Sportsbeat 2022 / Lead Image: World Taekwondo