Iqaluit Taekwondo sees success in Ottawa

by James McCarthy- June 10, 2018

You can set your watch by it – the Iqaluit Taekwondo Society goes to Ottawa for a tournament and comes home with more medals than competitors that made the trip.

That was the case this year as the society’s 17 members came home with 23 medals in total at the General Choi Taekwondo World Cup in Ottawa earlier this month. That total included eight gold medals and double-gold performances from Nick McDermott and Matthew Baillargeon.

photos courtesy of Pat McDermott
Iqaluit’s Daniella Callamayan, left, moves in Roger Belanger, also from Iqaluit, during black belt testing in Ottawa on June 3.

Pat McDermott, the society’s president, was on the trip as well and said it’s amazing to see the club have so much success again.

“It’s a real testament to the instructors we have and the dedication of our members,” he said. “They really enjoy doing what they do and that breeds success. Even the students that didn’t medal all found their own personal successes and were able to compete with some of the best from around the world.”
As McDermott alluded to, this was an international event with competitors making the trip in from places such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Nepal and Argentina, to name a few. Including Canada, 12 nations in total were in attendance.

Figuring out who would make the trip in the first place came down to a mixture of attendance and ability, said McDermott.

Alex McDermott of Iqaluit looks composed as he competes in poomse (forms) at the General Choi Taekwondo World Cup in Ottawa on June 2.

“We actually had less selection that in past years,” he said. “We looked at attendance and we had a benchmark of at least 80 per cent positive attendance for classes. We also took people we felt would be competitive, especially when it came to sparring. You need to have the skills to spar and be safe because safety is number one for us.”
There were two types of competition in Ottawa: poomse (forms) and sparring. Sparring is self-explanatory as it’s a fighting-type of scenario while the poomse shows off proficiency with memorized movements and patterns.

“It’s reflective of the movements of self-defence,” said McDermott. “It gets more complicated the higher you go up in terms of belt colour. We have one forms sequence where you have to remember 64 different movements and you have to do them in order.”

Doing all of that is good for the younger members of the society, he added.

“It’s good for the kids because it gives them a chance to focus,” he said. “By extension, it helps them when they’re in school in terms of concentration and they’re also learning about resiliency and life skills.”

Outside of the tournament, three of the society’s members – Nick McDermott, Daniella Callamayan and Roger Belanger – all tested for their first-degree black belts and were successful. It was an impressive showing for Belanger, who earned his top colour at the age of 70.

“Roger proved that you’re never too old,” said McDermott. “Taekwondo is a sport that appeals to all ages. You can start at any time and you’re learning those skills and learning about fitness that’s applicable to anyone. It’s a martial art that focuses on defence and it can be competitive but it’s more about the physical needs of a person.”

Pat McDermott and his wife, Samantha, were also honoured by the Chan Hun International Taekwondo Federation (CHITF), the organization which the society registers under, with honorary black belts for their work over the years to help grow the sport in Iqaluit.

With the Ottawa trip over for another year, the society’s focus is now on a much bigger event planned for 2019: the inaugural CHITF World Championships, which are scheduled to happen in Australia.

“That will be an exciting trip for us,” said McDermott. “Looking forward to Ottawa is always exciting but now the possibility of Australia is very thrilling.”

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