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(Posted 16/11/05)
Elite club captures five medals at World Karate Championships
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Twelve-year-old Rebecca Shaffer holds up the gold medal she won at the recent World Karate Championships in Niagara Falls. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It’s funny how things work out. Heading into the WKA World Karate Championships in Niagara Falls last week, 12-year-old Rebecca Shaffer was a heavy favourite to win a medal in points fighting in the 12 and under, +55kg category.

After all, she breezed through the provincial and national championships last spring, easily winning the gold medal at both meets.

Perhaps she was a little over-confident or perhaps it just wasn’t her day. Whatever the reason, Shaffer lost her opening points fighting match on the first day of the competition, forcing her to concentrate on her other event – continuous fighting.

Unlike points fighting where the fighters are separated every time a point is scored, in continuous fighting the fighters fight non-stop for two one minute rounds. At the end of the match, three judges must indicate who they believe won.

In her first match against a Canadian, Shaffer got the nod from all three judges. In the semi-finals she won by split decision over a British athlete. The result was the same in the final where Shaffer was matched against another Brit.

Despite her opponent landing several kicks to her head, Shaffer landed enough blows of her own to get the nod from two of the three judges to win the gold medal. Apparently many of the British fans in attendance didn’t agree the judges’ decision.

“After the decision the England people started booing and then when I was on the podium they started booing again and the English girl held her finger up like she was number one. It made me made. I thought the fight was close, but when I saw it (on video) afterwards I knew that I won,” says Shaffer who trains under former World Champion Guy Ouelette at the Elite Martial Art and Fitness School on Trim Road.

What makes Shaffer’s accomplishment even more remarkable is that fact that she has only been competing one year. She started taking karate lessons in February 2001 and earned her black belt last July.

“I started entering tournaments after a year or so. In my first tournament I lost pretty bad and I didn’t like it at all, but then I won a tournament and it was a lot more fun,” says Shaffer. “I’m pretty competitive. When I get hit I get mad and I just want to do better.”

(Clockwise from the front) Alexi Crane, Amanda Bentley-Desousa, Rebecca Shaffer, and Helen Medhin all won medals at the recent WKA World Championships in Niagara Falls. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Besides Shaffer three other Elite athletes picked up individual medals in Niagara Falls and the kata, or forms team, won silver.

Amanda Bentley-Desousa won three bronze medals in individual kata, points fighting and continuous fighting in the 12 and under, minus 45 kg division and was a member of the kata team that won silver along with Helen Medhin, Zachary Vey and Sebastien Boileau.

Niagara Falls was Desousa’s third World Championships. She won bronze in points sparring in 2003 in Dublin, Ireland and again last year in Basil, Switzerland.

Despite all the hardware she won this year, Desousa was disappointed she didn’t do better in kata. Last year, she had the misfortune of competing first in an event that is purely subjective. This year she was on her way to a silver or possibly even a gold when she slipped on her second last move leaving her having to settle for the bronze.

“I was trying really hard to get first. Afterwards one of the judges said that I was way up there before I slipped so I know I would have placed well,” says Desousa who must move up to the 13- to 17-year-old division next year. “This is my last year competing at 12 and under and I wanted to move up to the 13 to 17 division with a bit of a reputation.”

In her other events, Desousa lost in overtime in points fighting and was defeated by the eventual gold medal winner from France in continuous fighting.

Helen Medhin won bronze in points fighting in the 13- to 17-year-old, minus 45kg division, competing as a 14-year-old.
After winning her first match 17-11, she squeezed out an 8-7 win in the quarterfinals and then lost 15-13 in the semi-finals to another Canadian. It was her first trip to the world championships since 2001 when she won gold in the 12 and under, minus 30kg division.

Speaking of first trips to the world championships, eight-year-old Alexi Crane showed why she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come by picking up a bronze medal in the 12 and under, minus 25kg division. After getting a bye in the first round, she beat a Canadian in the quarterfinals before losing to a British competitor in the semis.

All in all, it was an extremely successful tournament for the Elite athletes who were back training at the facility on Monday.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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