Meet the new world taekwondo champion who’s a 67-year-old nun
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Standing at just 4 feet 11 inches tall, the diminutive religious sister knows how to defend herself.
Asister from Singapore, who weighs less than 110 pounds, proclaims: “I have always been petite and small-framed. If I can run and kick, I don’t have to carry a weapon to defend myself.”
Sister Linda Sim explains that despite a petite stature, “I’m the weapon,” according to an article in TNP Singapore.
While she joined the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood 43-years-ago, she still practices her art, and to an impressive level.
Now you might be wondering if there is not a conflict between practicing a martial art and dedicating your life to God as a religious sister. However, Sr. Linda shares that, for her, “Poomsae (a sequence of movements in taekwondo) is an art form and to me, it is like a dance. It is not violent and the (world authority) World Taekwondo’s motto is ‘peace is more precious than triumph.’”
Interestingly, she draws on the saint who inspired her order to explain: “… St Francis said the prayer ‘Make me a channel of your peace.’ Taekwondo enables me to reach out to people in a non-church language.” (While the famous “peace prayer” is often incorrectly attributed to St. Francis, members of the Order of Friars Minor often lean on the prayer.)
Becoming a world champion
In April 2022, the fifth-dan black belt holder (in the modern Japanese martial arts, holders of dan ranks often wear a black belt); was able to use her skills to become the first Singaporean to win a gold medal in the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships that took place in South Korea.
Unlike many other martial arts, this defensive sport requires the athlete to fight against an imaginary opponent (we can’t help but wonder if Sr. Linda pretended she was fighting some sort of demon, or maybe the devil himself!). And she beat six other contestants in her age category to become the world champion among those over 65.
On winning the impressive title, Sr. Linda shared:
“I felt on top of the world as I have reached a major milestone in my taekwondo journey. I felt great as this is the first time Singapore has won a gold medal and I also felt a great sense of gratitude to God.”
David Koh, the acting president of the Singapore Taekwondo Foundation (STF) also shared: “The Singapore Taekwondo Federation is very proud of her. She is also a shining example to our young-at-heart Singaporeans that sports is for everyone.”
An action-packed sister
It seems that Sr. Linda has always been drawn to action. As a young girl she wanted to join the police, or become a soldier. She was deterred when she discovered women were more involved in clerical work.
So the young woman went from chasing a dream of saving lives to saving spiritual lives instead. Despite her mother’s concerns, Sr. Linda felt a calling to serve God. Her mom was anxious that she’d lose a daughter, and it took her over 10 years to accept her decision. But as the athletic sister explained:
“I went to all the parties and did all the sports, but there was an emptiness in me. I kept feeling this stirring that God was calling me and I only found peace after I joined the sisters.”
While the sister has traveled the world with her work, including a 17-year stint in England to work in a convent, and three years working as an administrator in a hospital in Zimbabwe, it was 15 years ago when she was working with children suffering from cancer that she began to take her passion for the sport more seriously.
In fact the STF was teaching taekwondo to children fighting cancer in the Assisi hospital that the FMDM had founded in Singapore. The next thing the sister knew, she was getting coached by the STF herself, to help her in her teaching.
One thing led to another and she realized that she wasn’t too old to take the sport to a higher level, and ended up competing in South Korea.
“After I saw gray-haired ladies compete, I thought I wanted to train to represent Singapore as I’m very proud to be Singaporean.”
Although Sr. Linda is busy coordinating the mission work of the FMDM sisters in Singapore, she also has devoted some time to taking part in 25 international competitions, notching up an impressive 30 medals.
The world champ actually had to train three times a week in the run up to her latest competition, and although she has some aches and pains from wear and tear, she insists that “age is not an issue for me.”
The religious sister, who would normally be beyond retirement age, doesn’t seem to be hanging up her black belt any time soon. On Saturdays she coaches kids, and as one parent, Ms. Pamela Lim, pointed out:
“Sister Linda is a really good role model for young children. We can see her passion and commitment to taekwondo and all the work she does as a Catholic nun.”
Hopefully Sr. Linda will have many more years ahead of her to use her passion for Taekwondo as a tool to inspire others.