Athlete in Focus: Iman Kanoute


Iman is a senior at Marymount who has been a Taekwondo athlete ever since she was 4 years old. The backstory behind her early involvement with the sport is quite humorous, though: Iman said, “I used to hit my older brother. My parents signed me up [for Taekwondo] so I can channel the aggression to martial arts. She also noted although it wasn’t much of her decision to join the team, she is now grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to her through the sport.  

Taekwondo is a type of martial arts that originated from Korea. There are two main branches of the sport—fighting and performing—and Iman engages with the former. In fighting, two athletes compete against each other, trying to score more points through punching and kicking. There are many forms of attacks, and different number of points is allocated depending on the difficulty of the form and the targeted body part. Iman’s personal favorite is the axe kick to the head, which would score 3 points! 

Iman moved around different countries throughout her life, so it had been challenging for her to settle into a new community where she can share her passion for Taekwondo. She described her journey as being “rocky,” yet constant changes in her environment never stopped her from continuing Taekwondo. 

Iman mentioned, however, that she didn’t enjoy the sport as much until she started competing. She said, “the most exciting thing [about Taekwondo] is its competitive spirit.” The “’wants to win’ drive”, as she stated, motivates her to invest her time and effort into the sportWinning is rewarding but to her, losing is also a valuable experience that she can learn from.  

The support from her team is also something she cherishes among her experiences with Taekwondo. She noted the team has inevitably become a second family to her as she interacts with the members regularly (almost everyday during intensive training periods). This is one of the reasons her visit to Spain last summer was memorable to her. During her stay in Spain, she got to visit her old gym where she first learned Taekwondo at the age of four. There, she met her coach and her friends that she used to train withShe recalled this experience to be quite extraordinary, as she got to meet people that she shares her childhood with 

Iman participates in events on various levels—regional, national, and international—and has made impressive achievements across all. In addition to two gold medals in regional championships, she has won the British Junior Championship last November and qualified for the World Championship, which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. She also has experienced international competition when she participated in the German Open last year. 

Currently, she trains multiple days a week in a Taekwondo center in Wimbledon. Iman commented that the trainings are much more relaxed and easygoing compared to her schedule when she was preparing for the World Championship. She was quite dismayed hearing about the cancellation of the event for which she had tirelessly trained over the summer, yet she remains excited to compete in the National Championship next year as a Senior.

Iman has proven to be an exceptional (literally world class) athlete in Taekwondo, becoming an inspiring role model for her friends and family. She strives to maintain focus and pursue her passion for the sport no matter the circumstances.