A small contingent from the Parksville Cascadia Martial Arts club travelled a long way to Quebec City to pit their skills against the nation’s best at the 2019 Canadian Taekwondo Championships.
And they did not disappoint.
Sydney Easthom led the way when she won the gold medal in the Female Cadet 44-kilogram division. This was followed by silver-medal performances by her older brother Griffin Easthom in the Men’s Junior 78 kg, and Shelby Bell in the Female Junior 52 kg.
A soft-spoken, mild-mannered teenager, Sydney made a good impression when she dominated most of her fights winning her first match 15-0 followed by a 25-0 decision. In the final, Sydney beat Fokas Sophia of Ontario 12-7 to claim the gold medal.
“To be honest, I was expecting Sydney to do well,” said Dustin Fee, one of the instructors and co-owners of Cascadia Martial Arts. “She has been competing a lot lately and she was the oldest girl in her division. I knew she had an excellent chance of winning.”
This was Sydney’s second nationals appearance. She finished fifth last year. By winning the gold this year, the 13-year-old, who attends Ballenas Secondary School, has earned a place in the Canadian junior national squad that will compete at the World Championships in Australia in August.
“It’s exciting to be national champion,” said Sydney, who has been in taekwondo for approximately eight years. “I look forward to competing in the world championships in August. I am so proud to make the national team.”
Bell had the toughest time en route to the podium. She had a total of seven fights, the most of any of the fighters in her division. After dropping her first fight 12-10 that went into overtime, Bell said she needed to regain her composure.
“I didn’t fight my best,” said Bell, who last year won bronze in the cadet division. “I knew it and my coaches knew it. So I said ‘get it together, that’s only one loss. You can do this.'”
The 15-year-old Bell, in Grade 10 at Kwalikum Secondary School, reflected on the initial loss and decided not to let the setback get her down.
“I told myself ‘I am here right now and I have to give everything right now to get to the podium,” said Bell, who had to go through the gruelling back-door route in the double-elimination event. “In my mind, there is now way I am going home without something around my neck. I got into the zone and I won five fights in a row, which was a lot of fights. I fought all the way back to the finals where I lost and got silver. But it was an amazing day. It was so much fun.”
This year, Bell said she is mentally stronger and that the experience has only fuelled her hunger to do even better next time.
“It motivates me because, aside from my first fight, this was my best performance on an event I’ve ever done,” said Bell. “Just knowing I am getting better and knowing I came so close to getting that gold, it’s really what’s going to push me for next year, which is going to be my last year as a junior.”
Fee said that Bell has won silver at the Pan American Championships in Spokane last July and was a bronze-medal winner in last year’s nationals.
“I knew she was close and I truly believe that next year she will be a national champion,” said Fee.
For the 15-year-old Griffin, this was his first nationals appearance. He has been in taekwondo for 11 years. He was thrilled to finish in second place.
“It felt good but I know I could have done better,” said Griffin.
“I am still happy with the silver on my first nationals.”
Griffin said the result just gives him more reason to work harder for next year.
“The amount of training that I have put in definitely made it all worth it and I am ready to do some more in the months ahead,” said Griffin.
Fee commended Griffin for his work ethics.
“He has grown leaps and bounds since joining Team Cascadia,” said Fee. “His hard work and dedication have really paid off.”