It was trial by fire for a couple local black belts recently, as they made their debuts at the Senior National Taekwondo Championships, and as expected, both did their club proud.
In action on the mats in Toronto June 28-29 and fighting in the Fin weight category (-46kg), Parksville Taekwondo Academy’s Alison Kells showed plenty of pluck, winning two of her three bouts and bagging a bronze medal for her efforts.
Small in stature but big on heart, skill and determination, Kells qualified first in B.C. after two separate team trial events, and earned her spot as the top-ranked fighter on her team at the nationals, where she thumped her first opponent from Alberta 9-2, then beat her second opponent from Ontario 9-7.
Kells, an easy going pharmacist by day, came up just short in a hard-fought semi final to another Ontario woman who went on to win silver.
“Everyone from the club is so proud of Alison,” said PTA coach Brett Fee, who made the trip to the big smoke in support of his players, pointing out Kells, 31, only started training four years ago, “so to be the third best fighter in Canada in that short of time is such a great accomplishment.”
Played out at the Sheraton Hotel Grand Ballroom in downtown TO, the nationals, points out Fee, “is not like a regular regional tournament where everyone gets a medal. To win a medal at nationals is a rare and amazing accomplishment for anyone, let alone from a smaller community like Parksville. Our school is the only club on the Island to have ever produced athletes who have medaled at the senior nationals, and that includes schools from Victoria and Nanaimo.”
Worth noting is that all five of the other women in Kells’ division were from large urban centres “where there are many different training opportunities with other great athletes.”
“We are doing our best here in Parksville, and I am very happy how far Alison has come, and how far we have come as a program.”
Also in the mix representing PTA at the Sr. Nats was 18-year-old Colin Warren who had a good showing in a very tough and competitive featherweight division (-68kg).
“He did well,” said Fee, pointing out the dedicated teen, who makes the trip from his hometown Courtenay to train with PTA, earned an impressive 9-2 win over an opponent from Ontario, and even though he was eliminated from the competition and did not earn a medal, “he really fought hard, and only fell short by one point (6-5) against the former Junior National Champion from Quebec (who went on to win silver). Colin held his own, and looked like he belonged out there,” said Fee. One of Colin’s losses was decided in overtime.
Warren, said Fee, “is relatively new to the national competition scene, and him being only 18, he can only improve from here. He has a lot of goals and drive, and as long as he continues to work on the areas he needs to to improve, the results will come.”
“It was good,” Warren said of the nationals. “I won a fight and I didn’t get destroyed in the others.”
Looking ahead, Warren is off to Korea in August for two months of training, and said he’ll continue his quest to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Worth noting is that both fighters attended the US Open Taekwondo Championships in Las Vegas last February in preparation for the Canadian Nationals, and with over 1,500 athletes from 63 countries (making it the biggest taekwondo tournament in the world), it was definitely and eye opener.
“Oh yeah,” Alison chuckled. “That was amazing.”
The nationals, she went on to say, “was harder than I thought it was going to be actually, but it was a lot of fun.”
Kells, who was raised in small-town Saskatchewan, said the two big tournaments — The Sr. Nats also served as the national championships for poomse and for colour belts and featured 500 athletes — “has definitely made me hungrier… definitely.”