A Taekwon-do tournament in less than four months with hundreds of athletes from across the country just wasn’t in the cards for Vernon’s Sundance Martial Arts.
The gym was set to host the 2021 Canadian National Taekwon-do Championships at Kal Tire Place April 24-25, but has followed other major sporting events in pulling the plug amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision to cancel the championships was made by the Canadian Taekwon-do Federation and Sundance gym leader David White, a sixth degree black belt, after spending the last number of months closely following the latest news briefings from the provincial health officer.
“We were kind of put in a position where either we had to move forward with the event, continue generating sponsors, having people start to book their travel, or we had to decide to move on from that idea,” White said.
“It’s not surprising, but at the same time it would have been a very good event for our community and for our school of course, and our athletes.”
The prospect of bringing in 500 or more athletes wasn’t on the table given restrictions on travel, as well as a decrease in martial arts enrolment caused by the pandemic. White says according to the International Taekwon-do Federation of BC, membership is down by about 60 per cent across the province.
“Because anybody that runs out of community centres or public facilities or, say, churches that aren’t renting out their facilities currently, they can’t operate,” he explained.
Not wanting to hold a lesser event with 200 or so athletes while renting Kal Tire Place, White is optimistic that Vernon can be home to the nationals down the road in 2023.
For White, that’s an exciting prospect given the new athletic facilities that are planned for the old Kin race track location.
“The current rec centre doesn’t really have the gym facilities, they don’t have a tournament capital centre, and that’s going to open the door for us to host things like provincial championships and Western Canadian championships — stuff that maybe Kal Tire is a little too big for as a facility,” White said.
Despite having widespread support to host the event, it wouldn’t be the event they’d planned without the best athletes in the country able to attend.
“We had a lot of support from the other provinces but at the end of the day, lots of support from coaches is great but if the athletes aren’t actually allowed to attend, what do you do?” White said.
The cancellation is unfortunate timing for White’s star pupil, Brianna Lee, who would have been taking part in her third world championships in the junior category this year after appearing in Ireland at age 14, and again in Germany in 2019.
“In Ireland she was the second youngest competitor of the whole championships,” White said.
This year is Lee’s last year of junior eligibility, meaning she’ll have to make the jump to adult competition upon turning 18.
In positive news, many students at Sundance are still able to compete virtually in e-tournaments where athletes are judged on ‘patterns’ — kicks, punches and manoeuvres — submitted by video. The Pan-American e-tournament is slated to run in February in this format, as is the Slovenia World Cup in October.
“I consider myself quite lucky in that my students are still able to train, my athletes are still eveb able to compete in certain categories,” White said.