Inside a room on the upper level of the Plano Sports Authority building, taekwondo practitioners of varying skill levels prepared to test for their next belts. They hopped in circles around the blue and red matted floors of the studio. One individual, however, was readying for more than a test.
Corbin Deaton, a University of North Texas student, was preparing to represent Team U.S.A. in the Tae Kwon-Do International World Championships in England. The path to the championship has not been an easy one for Deaton.
Although she is mostly active in taekwondo, Deaton was first introduced to martial arts through judo and jiujitsu in New Mexico when she was just a kid. What interested her was the grappling.
The school she attended at the time was like an Ultimate Fighting Championship school, so she learned how to grapple and to strike. After about two years in New Mexico, she moved back home to Colorado, where she found herself practicing karate. Then she had her first major injury, to her knee.
“I tore my first ACL during karate," she says. "I was in a really low stance and pivoted. I stuck the heel, and my knee just torqued. I completely tore the ACL meniscus. It is very tough on your body.”
It took about a year for her to bounce back from her injury. Deaton’s taekwondo career started at East Texas Martial Arts when she moved to Texarkana. She was introduced to Grand Master Scott McNeely, her current taekwondo instructor at Plano Sports Authority.
Under McNeely's guidance, Deaton began training for her first international competition. However, just four months before the competition in Italy, Deaton tore her ACL a second time. Between the two injuries, she says, she was either going through surgery or recovering from surgery for three years.
“The first competition in Italy was very frustrating. I was training so hard,” Deaton says. “I was preparing as much as I could. I changed my diet, I changed everything. To tear an ACL, I was just heartbroken about it.”
Her injury, however, did not keep her from competing. She was not able to spar, but she could do patterns, a predetermined set of movements against an imaginary opponent. Deaton received both bronze and silver medals in Italy.
Two years later, the Intercontinental Goodwill Championships were in Tampa, Florida. This would be Deaton’s second international competition, but the first where she was not impeded by an injury. She walked away with bronze, silver and gold medals.
“I was really excited,” she says. “I was confident in my knees and was just ready to try new things. It went very well. It was very fulfilling to win gold.”
Deaton says she has learned something new from each competition. After her first, she was able to understand how patterns are done on an international level. During her second in Florida, she became aware of the aggressiveness that takes place in the sparring at these competitions.
“Now going to England, I can be more aggressive. I can be more forward in my sparring and my style,” she says.
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Being an elite athlete is a full-time job, but Deaton has another she is constantly tending to. She is also an honors student at UNT. This Decemberk she will complete her bachelor's degree in kinesiology. Additionally, she was awarded the first Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation Elite Athlete Performance Award at UNT, which helps athletes as they compete on an international level for the U.S.
After a night of performing patterns, practicing sparring sessions and breaking wooden boards, Deaton earned her fourth-degree black belt. She will continue to train until her competition in England on July 21-22.
“Ms. Corbin is doing an exemplary job, not only in her training, but also in leadership capacity,” McNeely says.