Some of this province’s best represent Canada at the 2016 Cadet and Junior Pam-American Karate Championships
Five athletes from this province will be in Ecuador in August representing Canada at the 2016 Cadet and Junior Pam-American Karate Championships that take place in Guayaquil, Ecuador from August 22-28.
It’s the first year for this province to have five athletes on the national team said Karate NL coach, Derek Ryan.
“We’ve been rebuilding a team of elite athletes since 2004. So, twelve years later things are starting to look very strong,” Derek said.
While the athletes will be under the Karate Canada coaching staff in Ecuador, Derek is a referee at international events and will be at the championships as an official.
Wing Au will also be refereeing some games while in Ecuador, Derek said. Wing’s son Christopher is the youngest athlete from this province to make the national team.
Nathaniel Besso, 18, is the oldest athlete heading to Ecuador. He’ll be competing in the U21 division.
Nathaniel has competed nationally and internationally on several occasions.
“In 2013, Nathaniel was the first Newfoundlander to make the Canadian National team as a youth/junior athlete,” Derek said.
His previous competitions have also taken him to other Pan-American Championships and in June Nathaniel brought home a bronze medal from the European Youth Cup in Croatia.
“Canada sent 43 athletes, male and female. Nathaniel was the only male athlete who medaled at that event,” Derek said of the European Youth Cup.
“He repeated his junior performance as a gold medalist and he was a bronze medalist in the senior division (18 and older),” Derek said.
This is Christopher Coady’s third year on the national team.
Christopher has been a gold medalist in the junior division on two occasions and will be competing in that division in the Pam-American Championships.
“Christopher is a very strong contender,” Derek said of the17-year-old.
Tyson Besso (Nathaniel’s brother) is 15 years old. His accolades include a bronze medal in January at the Canadian Championships in the cadet division (14-15 year olds). “Tyson has medalled at the US Open. He’s a strong contender as well,” Derek said.
Gold Medal Winner
Fifteen-year-old James Thorne will also be competing in the cadet division.
He has been successful in international competition for the past three years.
“He has competed at the Canadian Nationals this year and received a gold medal in his division. He has competed in the US Open twice,” Derek said.
James accumulated enough points to be ranked #1 Cadet 70+ kg division with Karate Canada this year. Not only will he represent Canada at the Junior Pan- m Championships in Ecuador in August James will also represent Canada at Pan-Am Kick Boxing Championships in Cancun Mexico in October.
Like James, Christopher Au, started training at age five, following in his brother, Andrew, and his sister, Samantha’s footsteps training at NL Tsuruoka Karate Dojo under the direction of his father.
In 2015 Christopher placed third in the 12-13 year old intermediate division at the US Open Karate Championships in Las Vegas.
Earlier this year, the 13-year-old represented NL at the Canadian National Karate Championships. Christopher was the youngest member on the team ever as this is the first time Karate NL participated in the youth division in the Canadian National Karate Championships. His silver medal allowed him to participate in elite training sessions with the Canadian Team coaches.
After three days of training at Junior National Training Camp in July, Christopher was selected along with 52 other Canadian athletes to represent Canada in Ecuador. “Christopher is competing in the youth (12-13 year-old) division,” Derek said.
Christopher and the other athletes are training hard, Derek sad, and he has great expectations for all five youth.
“We always go with the attitude that everything is possible. We just do our best performance and leave the calls to the referees,” Derek said.
A Big Karate Family
Christopher’s mother Cindy Au said karate parents support each other a great deal particularly when their children are competing out-of-province.
Those involved with the sport have become “a big karate family” she said.
Many friendships have been built over the years, Cindy said, between both athletes and parents.
“It there is a parent at the tournament, they are usually providing updates via text or over Facebook messenger. If the event is streamed over the internet all parents who are home start a group and we chat while trying to watch all the athletes,” Cindy said.
The athletes support each other at home and on the road, she said.
“Karate has built them each into a well rounded individual. They have won and lost. They have been injured and through the good and the bad they are there for their teammates/friends.”
The athletes have learned to respect themselves and others and show great sportsmanship, she said, both on and off the mat. “Yes, they are disappointed with a loss but they pick themselves up and move to the next mat where a teammate is competing and start cheering.”
Nathaniel is an assistant coach and team leader with Karate NL.
He helps train the athletes – both rising stars and proven competitors.
“A lot of experiences that I’ve had, I get to bring them back to the younger athletes and that helps prepare them for their own tournaments,” Nathaniel said.
Training at this stage is intense, Nathaniel said, but it will taper off as the dates of the championships get closer.
“We do something called the taper which prepares our body to travel. Then, once we get to Ecuador, we will have a week to adjust and get acclimatized and to train with the national team.”
Heading into this third Pam-Am Games, Nathaniel has set a goal that he hopes to accomplish.
“My first Pam-Am was 2013 in Columbia. I finished seventh… Last year in Bolivia I finished fifth… and hopefully this year I’m going to medal.”
Karate has brought much to his life, Nathaniel said. It’s made him more comfortable speaking in front of crowds, he said, and gave him the confidence to teach a self-defense course to hundreds of students at his school.
“It also helps a lot with your studies. You’re able to focus on a task and to set goals for yourself.”
Nathaniel – as well as other young karate athletes – has his sights set on the probable inclusion of karate in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo, Japan. “My long term goal is Tokyo 2020. And it looks very likely that it will be a sport in those Olympics,” Nathaniel said.