Rebecca Marshall made her debut in the seniors level at the 2018 Canadian Taekwondo Championships, held recently in Ottawa.
As a first-timer, the Ballenas Grade 12 student, who trains at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville, surprised herself when she reached the gold medal round in the 53-kilo weight class that had nine competitors, including former Canadian champions.
Despite her lack of experience at the elite level, Marshall captured the silver medal, which she now can pair with the silver medal she won at the nationals last year as a junior competitor.
Marshall admitted that at first she didn’t want to compete in the senior levels, as she expected it to be a lot tougher. But she was able to convince herself to take up the challenge. Knowing the opposition would consist of the best in the county and to prepare herself, Marshall set her mind to simply focus on learning as much as she could from the experience.
“I really was surprised with my result,” said Marshall. “At first I wasn’t going to compete at seniors just because it’s such a huge step. But I wanted to push myself. I went and I said, ‘On that day the results won’t really matter to me.’ If I didn’t win my fights, that wouldn’t crush my spirit or anything like that. It’s just going to be one experience. That was my mentality going into the tournament. I was just going to do my best and that’s what I did. I ended up with a silver medal.”
Marshall made a good impression when she won her first match, upsetting veteran fighter and former Canadian champion, Ruxandra Rodgers of Ontario. She won her next three matches, which included additional bouts against past champions, to secure her spot in the final.
Instructor Brett Fee said that nobody knew who Marshall was and that gave the 17-year-old Parksville martial artist a bit of an advantage.
“Typically everyone knows each other and know what to do to shut each other down,” said Fee, who, along with his older brother, Dustin, co-coaches Marshall. “They didn’t have a book on Rebecca. There’s nothing out there about her. She is just hard to score on as she doesn’t leave a lot of openings. She surprised everyone there.”
Having won all her fights, Marshall had to wait a whole day to find out who she would face in the final. Brett Fee said that the long wait of more than 13 hours was something Marshall needs to learn how to deal with.
“You could tell by 6 o’clock at night her legs weren’t as good as they were in the morning,” Brett described. “It all boils down to experience, how to deal with the wait in between fights.”
In the finals, Marshall faced her first opponent again, Rodgers, who had to fight her way back to the finals going through the losers’ bracket. Rodgers needed to beat Marshall twice in the double knock-out format.
“She beat me twice, unfortunately,” said Marshall. “She caught on to what I was doing and I just couldn’t keep up. But she’s been doing seniors for many years now. Honestly, to be up there and fighting those people, was really a good experience. I didn’t think I would do so well.”
Brett, who also co-owns Cascadia Martial Arts with Dustin, said they are proud of what Marshall has accomplished. They would like her to continue training with the club but Marshall will be graduating high school this year and will be in university in September.
“Not only is she a good athlete but she is also a good student who loves physics,” said Brett. “We would like her to keep training with us but education is important and we support her. She obviously would make a lot more money down the road as an engineer than she would as a taekwondo athlete.”
The other senior fighter for Cascadia at nationals was Brett Swann, who competed in the 68-kg division that had over a dozen participants. The junior competitors where Shelby Bell, Kai Watts and Sidney Easthom.
“They all fought well and showed sportsmanship throughout their fights,” said Brett. “They dealt with everything with class. There were some calls that didn’t go their way and they didn’t complain once. Nobody said a bad word. They won graciously and lost graciously. They were very humble and we’re very happy to see the sportsmanship and respect that they’ve shown.”