The pride of Parksville Taekwondo Academy are back home sporting a few nicks and bruises but feeling great after a strong showing at the Junior Nationals in Winnipeg.
In action Jan. 29 to 30 at the big annual showcase were PTA’s Marco Viedas, 16; 14-year-olds Kayla Cochrane, Matthew Landry and Thalia Austin, and Sherman Campbell and Mariah St. Pierre, both 13.
According to PTA coach and Master Brett Fee, the Junior National Taekwondo Championships is a Black Belt only competition to determine the best fighters in Canada. This year’s competition was a double elimination sparring-only competition.
Sherman and Thalia both garnered silver medals, and Mariah bagged bronze.
There were over 500 fighters from all over Canada competing in the ‘Peg, and in the end, Parksville had two athletes finish top three in the country.
“The competition is also important in determining which athletes represent Canada internationally,” explained Fee. “Taekwondo is an Olympic sport, so the Junior National Championships is a very important competition in the qualifying process for the Olympic and Junior Olympic games.
“We had some good results, but more importantly I was impressed with everyone’s perseverance and unmatched indomitable spirit,” said the long-time local mentor. “These are two very important tenets of Taekwondo, and they were on full display from our athletes at this competition.”
As is the norm with the local dojang, the youngsters “trained very hard for this competition, attending many weekend trainings on the mainland, as well as a winter training camp during Christmas holidays. While everyone was eating cookies, turkey and opening presents over the holidays, our guys were in the gym training and preparing for this big competition.”
While they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal of bringing home the gold to Parksville, “there are some promising days to come for these young athletes, many of whom have three or more years to compete as juniors.
“This means every year they will get older, stronger, more experienced, and ultimately more capable of winning consistently at this level. There are some very exciting times to come for this group.”
Asked his take on the Jenior Nationals, Marco, who is in his fourth year with PTA and final year of Junior, said, “it was a long trip (to Winnipeg) but it was awesome. We trained long and hard for this tournament and everyone did really well.”
The six standouts have now shifted their attention to their next competition and had already worked up a sweat when The News stopped by, and it became evident that they are a close-knit group.
“For sure,” Marco nodded with a smile. “Everyone gets along really well.”
“We train together pretty much every day.”
Asked what lies ahead, Marco was quick to make the point that “for a lot of us the ultimate goal is to compete in the (2016 or 2020) Olympics.”
No easy task to be sure, but Marco is quick to credit their coaches, Masters Brett, and his brother Brock. The Fee brothers have taken over and picked up where their father, club founder Master Murray Fee, left off.
“They’re great. They’re always supporting us, always taking time out of their day to help us out … I definitely think a big reason for our success is the chemistry between the team and the coaches.”
For more information on PTA check out www.parksvilletkd.com.