Courtney Bell often works the morning shift at Hy-Vee, starting at 8 a.m. But she’s up well before that.
The 20-year Coralville, Iowa, Hy-Vee employee is up every day at 3 a.m. to begin her workouts. That dedication paid off in June when Bell was named World Champion at the American Taekwondo Association’s World Expo in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was her fourth championship since 2012.
“It’s exhilarating to be called a champion,” Bell said. “When I started taekwondo, I had no plans to become a champion. I just kept pushing myself and my coach continued to encourage me to go further.”
Bell competes in the Special Abilities Cognitive Division. She began the sport at the suggestion of her doctor after she suffered a ruptured aneurysm on her brain at age 18. The now 45-year-old practices her taekwondo forms daily to help her improve brain cell activity and reduce anxiety. She’s also partially blind, only able to see directly in front of her.
“I’ve gotten so used to partial vision that I don’t even notice it anymore,” Bell said. “The vision isn’t an issue. But my short-term memory loss has been the biggest challenge in pursuing taekwondo.”
Bell has to memorize 81 steps for the championship competition as a second-degree black belt form involves 81 steps. But she’s clearly conquered the challenge and is focused on defending her title next year.
“For now, I’m glad it’s over because I get very nervous before the competition,” Bell said. “But I continue to wake up every day and improve and expand my skills.”