When it comes to the world of Tae Kwon Do, Sloane Cameron is a game changer.
Cameron, who lives in Eugene, Ore., is a power breaker, meaning she breaks granite, wood, clay and other materials with her hands and feet — also called Hanmadang.
In 2015, she set the record while competing in U.S. Tae Kwon Do Hanmadang after breaking 11 boards, she told NBC Out. Cameron realized with her skill, she could compete on an international level.
There was only one problem — the World Tae Kwon Do Championship didn’t allow women to compete in Hanmadang.
“It turned out there [was no women's] division, and I was like, ‘Man, this could be my opportunity to make a difference in the Tae Kwon Do world,’” she said.
After months of work, it was announced in May 2016 that the World Tae Kwon Do Hanmadang was opening women’s divisions in the games later that year. More than 25 women entered the competition, and Cameron took home the gold medal, officially becoming the women's world record holder in the back kick event.
“I was told, ‘We don’t want you to hurt your delicate feet.’ As a woman who was breaking those stereotypes and wanted to compete with men, it fueled me harder and harder,” Cameron said.
While empowering women across the globe, Cameron still makes her priority inspiring the girls in her hometown.
“Breaking is such an empowering thing, and I’ve seen firsthand as a teacher, young girls or young women come in — and breaking is sort of a male dominated sport — and they come in kind of sheepish, [saying] ‘I don’t think this is for girls.’ I’ve always challenged that, saying, ‘This is for you,’” Cameron said.
She recalled one particular student, who she has trained with for about seven years, that first came to her saying breaking wasn’t a girl’s sport.
“Her dad made her come, and she was like, ‘I don’t want to do this. This is not for girls,’ and I was like, ‘This is totally for girls. Let’s kick some things,’” Cameron remembers.
She said the sport has allowed her to teach her young female students that they are able to accomplish the seemingly impossible. It’s also made her a mentor and role model to those who need a strong female in their lives.
Cameron said “it’s pretty obvious” that she is a member of the LGBTQ community, and she’s happy to be a person her students can confide in.
“I have had a couple young girls come out [to] me and be like, ‘Help, I don’t know what to do with my feelings,’” Cameron said. “I’ve been like, ‘It’s OK. You can love whoever you love.' Who you love is no one’s business, and you should never have to hide that.”
Cameron’s next task will be running her newly opened Ninja Warrior gym, a complementary gym to the one where she teaches Tae Kwon Do. It’ll be a place where her students can learn and hone their skills, while still being empowered by their world champion mentor.
“It’s not about power, it’s about technique,” Cameron said. “You can do whatever you want. Period. And girls really, really respond to that. If I can be a small part of breaking down stereotypes in their head, it’s amazingly a true opportunity.”
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