Trailblazing former sprinter took up para sports aged 26; now a taekwondo Paralympian in Tokyo at 32

Shauna-Kay Hines, an IT professional from Kingston, Jamaica, says “It doesn’t matter where you come from or that you have a disability, you can be successful with the right support and mindset.”

Shauna-Kay Hines (Facebook Shauna-kay Hines)
Shauna-Kay Hines (Facebook Shauna-kay Hines)

Jamaican taekwondo fighter Shauna-Kay Hines became a Paralympian on Friday after only taking up the sport six years ago as she completed a meteoric rise and flew her country’s flag with pride at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The 32-year-old from Kingston, who was born without her right forearm as her arm tapers down from the elbow to the wrist and has three small fingers, only discovered para sports at the age of 26 and made a late and unsuccessful bid to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympics as a 100m and 200m sprinter.

Hines was spotted by her now coach Neville Sinclair while running 5km road races in Jamaica and he encouraged her to make the switch to para taekwondo which makes its debut at Tokyo 2020.

Jamaica, whose 54 Paralympic medals have all come in athletics, swimming and weightlifting, made its Paralympic Games debut at the third edition of the Games in 1968 in Tel Aviv, Israel and have a team of four athletes at Tokyo 2020.

Hines, an IT professional, competed in the new Paralympic sports’ women’s K44 -58kg event where she lost her opening bout to Egyptian teen Salma Abohegazy 12-9 on Friday morning at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba.

Hines returned to action in the repechage against Serbia’s former world silver medallist Marija Micev and fell 18-5 having scored all her points in the opening stanza to finish her competition in ninth place.

Shauna-Kay Hines at 2019 Parapan Games in Lima (Lima 2019)
Shauna-Kay Hines at 2019 Parapan Games in Lima (Lima 2019)

The 2019 Parapan Games bronze medalist took part in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s [UNESCO] #iRespectU social media campaign earlier this year, which promoted equality, diversity and inclusion in the Caribbean.

The Jamaican fighter said: “I was running distance events, but unfortunately, they didn’t have long distance in my impairment [classification] so it was a bit disappointing. I started to train for the 100m and 200m, but I didn’t qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Before Mr. Sinclair left for the Games he said, ‘I’m going to try to put you in a different discipline’, so he suggested taekwondo. I went and I met with the coach to train officially and he was like, ‘Kick me’. I kicked him with my right foot and he stumbled. He was like, ‘Oh my God. You’re so strong. Let’s start training.”

Paris 2024 hopeful Hines explained her philosophy which has driven her accelerated journey to her sport’s elite competition.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from or that you have a disability, you can be successful with the right support and mindset.

“Trust in your faith, be patient. It doesn’t matter where you are from, whatever community, whatever parish. If you have a mindset knowing what you want to achieve, you will be successful.”

Taekwondo’s first set of Paralympic gold medals were awarded on Thursday to Brazilian Nathan Cesar Sodario Torquato in the men’s K44 61kg event and Peru’s Leonor Espinoza Carranza in the women’s K44 49kg competition.

The inaugural and three-day Paralympic taekwondo event concludes on Saturday with the men’s K44 +75kg event and the women’s K44 +58kg competition.