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Martial arts duo gets kicks in Las Vegas

Cascadia students to compete in Canadian taekwondo championships
Shelby Bell of Qualicum Beach

Not everything that happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, apparently.

Though Alyssa Urquhart and Shelby Bell came away without a win in the recent U.S. Open Taekwondo Championships in Las Vegas, the two Cascadia Martial Arts students will carry the experience forward as they prepare for the upcoming Canadian National Championships.

Urquhart, a 21-year-old from Parksville, will compete this weekend in the 2017 Senior National Taekwondo Championships in Montreal.

“I’m taking the whole lesson of the U.S. Open, and taking that experience to nationals to apply what I’ve learned,” said Urquhart, who competes in the 67-kilogram senior women’s division. “I wanted to see where I was at against the other girls. I’d never competed against international competition as a senior.”

Bell, a 13-year-old from Qualicum Beach, will take part in the 2017 Junior/Cadet Nationals 25-28 at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.

Bell was competing internationally for the first time at any level at the U.S. Open in early February. She lost her lone match at the U.S. Open to American rival Cheyenne Ray, but said the experience would only serve to motivate her more going forward.

“I’m looking at doing more tournaments, getting in more training,” said Bell, who competes in the 55-kilogram Cadet division. “For a while I’ve been committed to being the best, and I’m doing everything I can to reach that level.”

Taekwondo is a martial art characterized by its emphasis on high, spinning and jumping kicks, including head-high kicks. A relatively new discipline, it began in Korea in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

For Urquhart, this weekend’s Senior Nationals in Montreal will actually be her second national championships. She first competed as an 11-year-old, and several years later took a break from the sport before resuming last spring.

“It kind of recharged me,” Urquhart said of her years away from Taekwondo. “I guess I had that awkward teen stage where I had to try to figure out what I wanted to do. I’ve always known I wanted to do taekwondo; it just showed up again suddenly last year.”

Urquhart made her return for the 2016 Vancouver Island Open last April, and promptly set her sights on the U.S. Open, a meet that draws hundreds of international competitors, including several Olympians.

She lost her first match to the national champion from Chinese Taipei, and was unable to advance through repêchage.

“It’s easy to get yourself depressed when you lose,” Urquhart said. “But I’m using it as motivation to get further. It makes you want what’s coming next even more.”

Bell first tried taekwondo four and a half years ago, and has been sparring for the past two-plus seasons. After competing in regional meets for a couple of seasons, she wanted to see how she matched up on a bigger stage.

“I was very interested in seeing how I matched up with people who have a lot of experience,” Bell said of her U.S. Open trip. “And it was interesting seeing how people come back when they’re losing. The match isn’t over when you give up a score.”

The Cadet nationals in May will be Bell’s first Canadian nationals. A win would earn her a coveted spot representing her country in the 2017 World Championships in Korea.

“I’m looking at (the U.S. Open) as more of a learning experience, to help make me win and celebrate that ability,” she said. “I’m using it to build motivation in my training.”

A third member of the Cascadia gym, Port Alberni’s Teya Doughty, will also be competing in this weekend’s senior nationals. It will be her second straight trip to nationals.

For more info on Cascadia Martial Arts, visit or call 250-954-3359.