Alumni Spotlight: Taekwondo national champion created best memories at Liberty
Former Liberty University taekwondo team member Tykeyah (Henderson) Wilson (’19), the Lady Flames’ first NCTA national champion as a freshman heavyweight yellow belt in 2015, grew up participating in other martial arts forms. The New Jersey native learned boxing from her dad before switching to karate and mixed martial arts (MMA) in high school and finally landing on taekwondo a month after arriving at Liberty.
“At first, when I got to Liberty, like many students, I was homesick,” she said. “Liberty’s taekwondo team became a second family to me. Once I joined the team, we all became very close. I felt very welcomed. I was pretty new to taekwondo, but the team and the culture were amazing. Every year, our coach would have a get-together, like a barbecue. That would be a great time to get to know each other outside of practice and that’s what made us a family.”
When her father, Arthur, lost his battle with stomach cancer at age 58 in February 2015, she fulfilled promises to him to win a national title, as she did that spring, and to become the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, which she accomplished in May 2019, when she received a B.S. in Kinesiology from the School of Health Sciences.
“My dad and I were best friends,” she said. “We were very close. The first year without him was the hardest. I missed his heart, missed his encouragement, missed seeing him. My dad sacrificed a lot for me, and I never took that lightly. He was always pointing us back to Christ.”
Losing him caused her to lean on her taekwondo teammates even more closely.
“The team grew over time and it was great to have an opportunity to travel with my teammates,” Wilson said. “There were 30-some people on the team and we had some amazing competitors. We had some really good fighters, and to this day I keep in contact with them and they’re all doing amazing.”
After graduating from Liberty, she married her former taekwondo teammate, Kyree Wilson, this past June, and is now working two jobs in the healthcare profession.
“I do health coaching so I basically help people reach their health goals, whether it’s to lower blood pressure or lose weight, and I’ve also started a side business,” she said. “I’m really passionate about health, so I’ve started a women’s health business where I help women be more confident, reach their goal weight, and exercise in a way that they’re comfortable with, so I’m really excited about that.”
Some of the best memories of her life so far have come as a student-athlete at Liberty.
“I always bring Liberty up when I talk with co-workers (because) the school has made such an impact on me, not just with sports, but academically,” she said. “I’ve had some of the best professors, honestly. I genuinely feel like they cared about me — not just my success in school, but personally, I felt like they care. I miss Liberty. I miss being there. It was just such a great environment and to this day, I don’t regret it. It was a great school and it honestly shaped me into who I am today.”
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