Competing in the Canadian Junior Taekwondo Championships as a black belt for the first time, Rebecca Marshall’s plan was to take one match at a time and not to think too far ahead.
It worked well for her. That’s because every match ended up to be a title fight for Marshall, who pitted her skills and talents against some of the top juniors in the country. The championships were held in Calgary last month.
The 17-year-old from Parksville, who trains at Cascadia Martial Arts, reached the final of the double knock-out junior 52 kg division. The journey she took to get there was no easy feat.
After winning her first fight, Marshall’s next match was against one of Canada’s fast-rising stars, Josipa Kafadar of Langley, B.C. Marshall held her ground against her heralded opponent but ended up losing. That relegated Marshall to the losers’ bracket and forced her to take a longer and arduous route to the final. To reach the gold-medal round, Marshall had to get past four other fighters, and instructor Brett Fee said she fought exceptionally well to achieve that.
In the final, Marshall had another shot at Kadafar. Although she gave it her all, Marshall said, she just didn’t have anything left in the tank, drained by the energy-sapping route she had to endure on the way to the final.
“I knew she was aggressive and I tried to match her intensity,” said Marshall. “It was a tough match. I did the best that I could and put all that I had on the floor for that match.”
Marshall was proud to win the silver medal, which she and all her coaches regard as good as gold because of what she had to go through to earn it.
“People just don’t understand how difficult it is to win a medal at nationals,” said Fee, who said he is proud of his student. “They have to face different opponents all in one day. It made it harder for Rebecca because she had to go through so many fights — seven in total. She showed true determination and was an inspiration. And that was more important than the medal.”
Marshall said it was nerve-wracking for her at first, but as she went to fight more, her confidence grew. And despite just missing the gold, she is not disappointed.
“I was so happy with how I fought the whole day,” said Marshall. “I didn’t expect to even go so far as I did.”
Another Cascadia student, Shelby Bell of Qualicum Beach, also fought well in her debut at the nationals. She took home a bronze medal in the Cadet 55kg weight class. Bell had mixed emotions.
“I really wanted to win and I was sad but also happy at the same time,” said Bell, who has been sparring only for three years. “I was doing well when something happened, something broke, and things just fell apart. I tried to get myself to get back up. I know now what I need to work on. If I compete more in tournaments of this calibre, I can be better. So as a cadet, I plan to enter more tournaments.”
Kai Watts was the third junior from Cascadia that made his debut at the junior nationals. He fought well but ended up losing both of his fights.
“It was a good experience and I filmed my fights,” said the 13-year-old from Parksville.
“I will dissect what I did wrong and figure it out. I need to learn how to hold on to my points because I was winning in both fights and I allowed my opponents to come back.”
For Cascadia, the former Parksville Taekwondo Club, its recent success was one of its best results at the national level since Dayna Harstad won the senior nationals in 2003 and 2004. The last Canadian junior champion from Parksville was Mishar Briones, who also won in 2003 and 2004 and was a former member of the Parksville Taekwondo Club.
“This is unprecedented for the Island,” said Dustin Fee, who started the family-owned club 23 years ago.
“A lot of the clubs there didn’t know who we were, especially the coaches from Quebec and Ontario. They were pretty surprised like, ‘who are these guys doing so well?’ So that worked to our advantage a little bit. I was truly impressed with the kids. They worked so hard the whole year.”
Cascadia also fielded competitors at the Western Canada Open, which was held the same weekend as the junior nationals. Sherman Campbell came home with a silver medal in the elite men’s senior division, Alyssa Urquhart won silver and Teya Doughty won bronze.