Susan Harkins has overcome countless obstacles. Injuries have accounted for many that have made the road tougher to remaining proficient in karate.
In the middle of training last March, the Gainesville resident injured her rotator cuff — a rather frustrating injury for any athlete. This was another obstacle as she prepared for the World Karate Championships last fall in Dublin, Ireland.
Instead of sitting it out, Harkins went to Ireland and carried home a silver medal in point fighting and continuous sparring in the 42-plus division in both events, while garnering bronze in continuous sparring for the 35-plus division and in forms 42-plus division.
Since competition means so much to Harkins, she delayed surgery until Jan. 31. The gratification of winning on such a grand stage made it all worthwhile.
“Having so many people go up to me saying, ‘You are such an inspiration to women, thank you so much for doing,’ that is kind of cool,” Harkins said.
Already a gold medalist at the World Championships the last time it was held in Orlando, Fla., she started her journey to make it back to the world championships with three qualifying finishes in regional meets. Her performance in regionals helped her earn another trip to worlds in Ireland.
For a milestone as big as the World Games, Harkins’ husband and two sons made the trip. That came at a healthy price but was made easier with generous contributions from Milton Martin Toyota, along with other friends.
Once at the World Championships, her shoulder still flared up with pain, but Harkins used her mental fortitude to battle through it with a clear goal in sight.
In 2015, Harkins earned the gold in points sparring in the 42-plus age group. In 2016, she branched out to compete in five separate disciplines of karate.
Going to Ireland for the World Games came with the uncertainty of trying to win on foreign soil.
“It was a little nerve-racking because you want to do well,” Harkins said. “They are from different countries.”
She struggled competing with some of her opponents.
“I fought a German lady. She was really good and hit me really hard,” Harkins said. “I fought well but she ended up coming out on top.”
Despite all the tough competition Harkins had and her injured rotator cuff, she still ended up taking home four medals. Even though she earned four medals — an admirable finish for any competitor — she was ultimately disappointed she did not come home with a gold.
After her surgery, Harkins plans on healing then training again to go back to Worlds and fight for gold.