Aniya Louissaint graduated from Georgia Cyber Academy in May.
When recent Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) graduate Aniya Louissaint was 14, she watched the remake of The Karate Kid with Jaden Smith and decided she wanted to learn martial arts.
It wasn’t an uncommon theme.
“When I was younger, I’d watch dance movies and I’d want to be a dancer; I’d watch a movie about a piano player and I’d want to be a pianist,” she said. “When I saw The Karate Kid, I really wanted to learn.”
One day, Aniya’s father, Richard Louissaint, surprised her and her younger sister, Kianna, by taking them to a taekwondo class. It didn’t go too well.
“I got beat up by everyone there,” Aniya said.
She didn’t like the feeling of getting beat up, so Richard, a black belt in a style of karate called shotokan, agreed to train the sisters. They quickly progressed, and Aniya earned her black belt in just two years.
Now, only four years after she began practicing taekwondo, Aniya will represent Haiti in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this month.
Aniya trains with her dad in their hometown of Powder Springs, Georgia, at least four hours a day, but a couple months out of the year she trains with her team, Styles United, in South Windsor, Connecticut. She also travels around the world throughout the year for competitions – a schedule she says she would never have been able to maintain without GCA.
“GCA’s flexibility allowed me to complete all my training,” she said. “When I went to public school, it was a struggle for me to balance my school and my sport. Making the switch to GCA definitely helped me a lot.”
After a year and a half of attempting to keep up with her school work and training schedule at her brick and mortar school, Aniya transferred to GCA. She said her teachers were happy to accommodate her training and competition schedule, which in 2015 included three months of attending her classes while in the Dominican Republic.
“I worked with my teachers a lot to let them know what competitions I had coming up,” she said. “They were always willing to work with me – if I wasn’t sure of certain materials because of training, they were more than willing to come before or after class for me. If it wasn’t for GCA, I wouldn’t have been able to travel to meets, which ultimately helped me improve my standing.”
“Without GCA, she would never be able to do what she is doing,” Richard emphasized, adding that Kianna, the Pan-American champion at the age of 14, also attends GCA. “At her old school, she could only miss 8-10 days, but we travel a lot; she wouldn’t have been able to make the Olympics.
“GCA has allowed my daughters to experience different countries, different cultures – we’ve gone to school in France and Spain through GCA. She has friends all around the world – the world is her school.”
Aniya, who will compete as a welterweight, is the first female ever to represent Haiti in the sport of taekwondo. Though she was born in the U.S., she is permitted to compete for the Haitian team because her father is from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Although Aniya did not qualify when she competed at the Olympic Trials in Mexico, she was awarded a wild card by the Tripartite Commission, making her one of two females in the world to receive this invitation.
“A little disbelief,” she said of what she felt when she found out she would be going to the Olympics. “I cried for two hours. I woke up the next morning and couldn’t believe it was real. I had to have my dad show me the article again. It was amazing.”
While she is unsure of her future in taekwondo after the Olympcs, Aniya will attend Georgia State University in the fall and plans to major in biology with aspirations to become an oncologist.
But first up is a trip to Rio, where she will fight on the world’s largest stage. The women’s welterweight competition is set for August 19.
“I am nervous, but I’m more excited than anything to be going,” she said.
Aniya (far right) with her sister, Kianna, her father, Richard, and the Dominican Republic’s coach.