By S. Quinn DeJoy and J. Murrer
Apr. 4, 2018: It is hard to imagine being a world champion at any age, but Bronxville-area resident Erica Linthorst, who turns 71 this week, has won multiple gold medals in taekwondo in the last five years, including a gold in the 65+ division at the 10th World Taekwondo (WT) Poomsae Championships in 2016. She is no stranger to gold medals and has won the USA Taekwondo National Poomsae Championship for the past five years and also won two international competitions last year, the WT President’s Cup and the WT Belgian Open.
By her own admission, Linthorst has had many “lives,” including, wife, mother, teacher, and counselor, but it was not until 1990 when she moved to Korea with her husband, Paul, and their three children that she found a passion for taekwondo.
“When we moved to Korea, I wanted to get to know their culture,” said Linthorst. “The easiest thing for me was to pick up taekwondo since it was on every street corner and was also an adult program at my kids’ schools.”
Taekwondo is traditionally considered to be the number-one Korean martial art. It emphasizes the use of limbs, specifically, kicking and punching or blocking motions. There are three pillars of taekwondo: sparring, poomsae, and kyukpa, or breaking. Linthorst competes in poomsae, which involves choreographed motions that symbolically represent combat.
During her six years in Korea, Linthorst earned two black belts and became increasingly involved in the sport. After living in Korea, Linthorst and family moved to Japan, where she continued to do taekwondo. With her Korean master’s encouragement and support, she ran a successful taekwondo program in Yokohama for over five years.
She returned to New York in 2001, always remaining committed to improving her taekwondo practice. While writing for the Taekwondo Times, Linthorst discovered that one of the USA National Poomsae Team coaches, Master David Turgeon, lived relatively nearby, and she contacted him for an interview.
“At the end of the interview, he asked how old I was,” said Linthorst. “I generally don’t tell people my age, but when I did, he nearly jumped out of his seat. He told me that I should compete and that I might even be able to make the national team.”
And so Linthorst, despite being a somewhat aging athlete, started to compete and has never looked back. In taekwondo, the highest degree of the black belt is the 9th dan; Linthorst achieved her 7th dan last fall.
Unfortunately, Linthorst may not be able to compete at the WT Poomsae Championships this year. The World Taekwondo organization has decided to eliminate the 60+ and 65+ divisions for international competition. But Lindhorst and her community of taekwondo experts are fighting back. They have sent a declaration to the World Taekwondo organization, which strongly supports retaining the eldest divisions. Their ambassador will be addressing the secretary general of the organization soon.
“The eldest division of taekwondo is a growing community because people are living longer and are healthier,” said Linthorst. “They want something to aspire to and have goals. If you take that away, you are diminishing the entire sport.”
In 2018, Linthorst is determined to stay healthy and in good form, and she hopes to compete both in the US Nationals and at the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships.
Pictured here: Linthorst competing at the World Taekwondo Championships in 2014.
Photo by Paul Linthorst