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Olympian Aliyah Shipman Talks with Founder Elisabeth!

by | Founders

Olympian Aliyah Shipman talks with Founder Elisabeth in this special interview. Aliyah shares her journey of overcoming her personal challenges to becoming a strong woman and earning her place on Team Haiti for the Tokyo Olympics.

(Read Time: 6 min.)

Olympian Aliyah Shipman Talks with Founder Elisabeth About Her Family

Watch Trades of Hope founder, Elisabeth Huijskens, interview Haitian Olympian Aliyah Shipman.
You can follow along with the full video transcripts below!
Elisabeth: Hi, Aliyah! Thank you so much for joining me here today. I am honestly a little starstruck after doing some research about you and can’t believe you’re here talking to me now. Do you mind introducing yourself and sharing the big, exciting thing going on in your life right now?

Aliyah: Hi! Thank you for having me. My name’s Aliyah Shipman. I’m eighteen years old. I live in Florida and actually, next month, I’m competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Elisabeth: Oh, that’s so exciting! Can you share what team you’re fighting for – what sport you’re doing? I’d love to hear all about that.

Aliyah: I’m doing Taekwondo for Team Haiti.

Elisabeth: So cool! So exciting! You said you’re still in Florida, but your parents are not from Florida. Where is your family from?

Aliyah: My dad’s side of the family is Haitian, and my mom is from India.

Elisabeth: So incredibly cool! Like I said, we love strong female stories from around the world and so the fact that you hit, literally, different hemispheres and continents with your story – you embody it all in one – is really, really cool!

Aliyah’s Humble Beginnings

Elisabeth: Let’s talk really quickly about taekwondo. So, I believe I saw that you started Taekwondo when you were nine. Is that correct?

Aliyah: Yes, I started when I was nine. I was kind of chubby when I was little, and my mom – she wanted me to do a physical activity – so she put me into Taekwondo.

“I started when I was nine. I was kind of chubby when I was little, and my mom – she wanted me to do a physical activity – so she put me into Taekwondo.”

– Aliyah Shipman, Haitian Olympian

Elisabeth: That’s incredible. Did you choose Taekwondo? Were you drawn to it? Or was it her idea?

Aliyah: I was drawn to it, because a kid in my class, he did karate. And then my mom… I told her I wanted to do karate or something, and she started reading about it, and she learned that Taekwondo is safer for kids, and you can actually go to the Olympics. There’s a future with it.

Elisabeth: That’s really cool. So, your mom saw this coming. Is that what you’re saying? Amazing! What made you – over the last almost ten years – what made you stick with it? Was it the thought of the Olympics? Was it just something you loved doing?

Aliyah: I love doing it. I love to compete, as well. I love when you win. It’s the best feeling. Also, I get to travel and have fun experiences and meet new people. When I can go to competitions, I go around the world.

Elisabeth: That sounds amazing! Uhm… I… you know, don’t want to make this about me… I did Taekwondo for a little while. I got to like… a yellow belt… and I called it quits. So, I’m really impressed with your tenacity!

Olympian Aliyah Shipman Talks with Founder Elisabeth About Her Olympic Goals

Elisabeth: So, it sounds like the Olympics might have been on your mind. Was it clear, very early on – you know, like you’re a nine, ten-year-old little girl – that you were really good at this?

Aliyah: Very early on, I was still kind of chubby, I think until I was about thirteen or twelve. So, early on I was just like “Oh this is fun! I like to win competitions.” So that was my thought at the beginning. But then I think when I turned thirteen – no fourteen – that was when I had won my first national championship, and then I was like, “Oh, Okay! I have a future with this!”

Elisabeth: That’s awesome.

How She Became a Part of Team Haiti

Elisabeth: And then what is the process like? How were you invited to fight on Team Haiti? What happened there?

Aliyah: Well basically, I kind of wanted to go back to my roots, and I wanted to fight for a country that doesn’t have so much representation, especially in Taekwondo. So, in 2019, I went to the national championships in Haiti, and I won the competition, and that’s how I got my spot on the team.

“Basically, I kind of wanted to go back to my roots, and I wanted to fight for a country that doesn’t have so much representation, especially in Taekwondo.”

– Aliyah Shipman, Haitian Olympian

Elisabeth: Oh, that’s so cool. What is it like for you, knowing you’re helping to represent a country that is overlooked? Because obviously, there’s poverty in Haiti, but it’s a beautiful country! Like the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen! Like amazing, beautiful vibrant culture! What does it mean to you to represent such a beautiful country?
Aliyah: I feel so proud to represent them, and I just hope, like with what I’m doing, I can bring more positivity to the country, shed a great light on it, especially in sports, and maybe bring them some more sporting programs and things like that.

Elisabeth: Yeah, I love that. That’s exciting! I love that you’re so young, but you’re championing that for the nation. That’s really cool.

Olympian Aliyah Shipman Talks with Founder Elisabeth About Training for the Olympics

Elisabeth: You told me that you were training, earlier, for this. How’s training been going for Tokyo?

Aliyah: Training has been very good. We’re down to like, the last push. So, I’m so focused right now. I’ve been training for months, and months, and months! So, I’m super excited!

Elisabeth: That’s incredible! I’m honestly… I’m still starstruck! Like, how am I even talking to someone going to Tokyo? But what are things that Olympic athletes do other than practicing? What does training look like? Is it a lot of sleep? Is it a particular diet? Are there a lot of mental things that you have to get in the groove of?

Aliyah: Yeah… ALL of that. So, there’s training. You have sleep a certain amount of hours, of course, so your body can recover. I have to be on a specific diet so my body can perform its best. And I do a lot of mental training, as well. I see like doctors – psychologists – to help me out and get my brain in the perfect place that it can be.

Victories Begin in the Arenas of Our Minds

Elisabeth: What is one piece of mental training that you go through? Maybe it’s a tip that other people could help to succeed in whatever they want to do.

Aliyah: I think it’s most important to envision yourself doing your goal.

Elisabeth: Okay!

Aliyah: See yourself winning and just keep positive thoughts all the time. You look at a situation in a negative way and in a positive way. Just always try to look in a positive way.

Elisabeth: I love that, and it can be applied even to the most everyday things, even when you’re not trying to win a gold medal. I love that. And you were… I think I read that you were one of the youngest trying to qualify for a place on this team. Is that accurate?

Aliyah: Yeah. I am the youngest Haitian athlete to qualify for the Olympics – for this Olympics – and for Taekwondo, I think I’m one of the third youngest in the whole Olympics for Taekwondo who has qualified… like the youngest kids.

Elisabeth: Wow! What message do you have to young people, as far as pursuing their dreams?

Aliyah: I would just tell young people, “It doesn’t matter – your age or where you are in life – you can accomplish anything if you work hard and if you put your brain to it and are really passionate about it.”

“It doesn’t matter – your age or where you are in life – you can accomplish anything if you work hard and if you put your brain to it and are really passionate about it.”

– Aliyah Shipman, Haitian Olympian

Elisabeth: I love that. You’re proof of that. You’re proof of that.

The Moment Her Dream Became a Reality

Elisabeth: Okay, last question because again, I’m speaking to an Olympic athlete just weeks before Tokyo, so I want to give you your time, but what has been – over your life or even just in this season – what has been the proudest moment for you, so far?

Aliyah: Definitely, the proudest moment has to be when I qualified for the Olympics. That was probably one of the happiest moments yet in my life.

Elisabeth: How did you celebrate? I have to know.

“I was crying. The first thing I did was I dropped to the floor, and I prayed to God, and I was crying so much because I worked so hard for it.”

– Aliyah Shipman, Haitian Olympian

Aliyah: I was crying. The first thing I did was I dropped to the floor, and I prayed to God, and I was crying so much because I worked so hard for it. I was doing school at the same time. It was so difficult, but I was able to achieve it.

Team HOPE is Cheering You On, Aliyah!

Elisabeth: That’s incredible! You are an inspiration to me – to so many! I love that such a tenacious, strong young woman is representing Haiti in this Olympics. That is exciting to see. And just know that you have a whole community here at Trades of Hope cheering you on! We’ll be watching – mentally preparing with you, as you train, and you go for that gold medal! I appreciate your time so much, because you have a whole community of supporters now!

Aliyah: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it!

After Aliyah graciously talked with Trades of Hope founder, Elisabeth, her dream of representing Haiti in the Tokyo Olympics began to face unexpected challenges. We encourage you to follow her story in the media and on social media for the latest updates.

Aliyah, we at Trades of Hope continue to applaud your courage and beautiful heart for the people of Haiti. We love your desire to represent them on a global stage. You have already won our hearts. You are a strong woman and we will continue to support you and cheer you on.

Want More Ways to Cheer On Strong Women in Haiti?

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Trades of Hope is partnering with Artisans in areas of extreme poverty in Haiti to help mamas keep their babies.
Every purchase of Trades of Hope designs from Haiti provides skills training and jobs in areas of extreme poverty that help women keep their families together.

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Elisabeth Huijskens

Elisabeth Huijskens

Elisabeth is a founder of Trades of Hope and is passionate about empowering women to boldly reach their dreams, here at home and around the world. She loves meeting our artisan partners, traveling to new cultures, and binging Downton Abbey episodes with her matching redhead puppy.

Kindred

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1. similar in kind; related
2. a blog by Trades of Hope

Trades of Hope is an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand that helps women around the world escape poverty and trafficking through our fair trade designs. Learn how you can partner with Artisans around the world here.