ITF Taekwon-Do World Championships 2012 in Ottawa, Canada, August 6 – 13.

In the wee hours of August 6th, the Singapore delegation comprising of Master Sng, Chen Weiling, Joel Mok and myself, gathered in Changi Airport’s Terminal 3, bracing ourselves for a wearisomely long flight to Ottawa, via Hong Kong and New York.

Fortunately the flights (United Airlines) were comfortable enough and, in some aspects, even exceeded my expectations! I can’t speak for the rest but I emerged from the HK-NEW YORK 14+hour leg without much ache or soreness, surprisingly. There was ample entertainment, wholesome meals and snacks, attentive staff, and, most importantly, a smooth and safe flight.

Upon arrival, Mr and Mrs. Noreiga welcomed and shuttled us to our home for the stay – Delta City Centre hotel. The double rooms we stayed in were grand! An extremely comfortable, large bed for each of us, a huge TV, and even a writing desk sat amply in the room.

It was near 7pm in the evening after settling in and we went out in search of dinner. As it was a public holiday, the roads and streets were deserted throughout the evening, and most of the stores were closed. We managed to find food at a small pizzeria after some walking and asking around. A visit to a convenience store after and the walk back to the hotel wound down our evening; the weather was just nice to spend outdoors– low 20s, breezy, and not too dry.

The next (and subsequent mornings) we had to get up early at about 6am; breakfast buffet was served up in the penthouse which held a beautiful view of the city, including the Ottawa River. Shortly after, we went to register our delegations and collect our relevant documents. The crew were friendly and efficient. We had a bit of drama when I was overweight at weigh-in.. Nothing a little skipping couldn’t resolve.

We spent the afternoon exploring Sparks Street (Ottawa’s equivalent of our Orchard Road), Wellington Street (where the majestic Parliament Building resides) and Byward Market where we had lunch and found fresh local produce, food, and trinkets. On the way back we found and signed up for a city tour at their booths. It was an interesting ride! The “amphibus” we took was akin to our Duck Tours back home – we were introduced to Ottawa’s and nearby Gatineau’s landmarks, including the many government buildings, residencies, offices, museums, the mint, and embassies, among others. Going into the Rideau River we had another perspective and a nice ride. We sighted the Rideau Falls and the scenery was spectacular – many buildings had fairy tale castle-like designs, complete with spires!

The rest of the night was occupied by the Coaches’ Meeting which reinforced rules and regulations of the tournament, as well as drew brackets for the events.

Day 3 brought the first day of events – we were shuttled across the river to Le Centre Sportif De Gatineau, a swanky new and enormous sports complex, after breakfast on very vintage-looking yellow school buses. The Opening Ceremony included several dance, Taekwon-Do skits and performances, as well as welcome speeches from President Choi, the Organizers and Mayor of Gatineau, and the Parade of Nations. The stadium was a sight to behold with many huge flags put up, more than 5 rings set up, and a roaring crowd of more than 800 from all over the world.

The tournament started with Junior Pattern and Sparring events. Master Sng kindly volunteered his services to be part of the Umpiring team, and he subsequently also worked dedicatedly over the long days of the tournament.

After some training, Weiling, Joel and I left early at 4pm on the shuttle bus back to get some groceries for our stay. We tried poutine, which is a popular Canadian dish consisting of French fries topped with brown gravy and curd cheese; we all agreed it was a tasty dish and of course, had more over the course of our stay. Ate in for dinner – had a feast of salad, soup, noodles and fruits!

August 9th was the second day of the tournament and it saw Junior team events as well as Senior (above 35yrs old) events. The standard was great and the atmosphere very celebratory – opponents were very gracious and congratulating each other even after a hard fight. Also, some members from different states in the country would come together to form teams to compete. That is an inspiring spirit that Taekwon-Doists have and I wish more of our Singapore members could have taken part in this wonderful experience – it really is not about winning and losing, but of training hard and doing your best. Next time we have to send enough to take part in Team Pattern events which is such a beautiful spectacle to behold!

Other than that we were all preparing our nerves for our turn to perform the next day, all in between continuous well wishes for my birthday and fresh, huge strawberries from the nearby supermart!

Weiling’s event, Adult Female 1st Dan Individual Patterns, was called first on the next day – the big day where all our events took place. Performing her patterns with admirable strength and confidence, she won her opponent the first round. Unfortunately in the next round which was the quarter finals, her opponent was also very strong and ended up the favourite, and I am sure it was a close match giving the judges a run for their money.

Joel’s division, Adult Male 1st Dan Individual Patterns, came shortly after, to be held on the prestigious centre, raised platform! He too performed magnificently and won two rounds straight, putting him in the semi-finals, but he did not secure another win although he put in his very best. It was very heartwarming to see him perform so well at his first World Championships and was rewarded with winning a Bronze for Singapore. Congratulations, Joel!

My patterns category, Adult Male 3rd Dan Individual Patterns happened concurrently as Joel’s, so the Japanese coach kindly sat in as coach for my first round – thank you again to the Japanese delegation! I won that round and the second round as well, but failed to get past the quarter finals on the third match. Later in the afternoon, I also did not do well against my first opponent in the Adult Male Individual Sparring – Micro weight category, and was eliminated in the first round.

I’m sure, regardless of our results, we have all gained incredible firsthand experience competing in the World Championships and know what it takes to perform patterns and spar at the highest level.

The next two days of tournament consisted of team patterns, team sparring, special techniques and power breaking. It always is a pleasure to watch these other categories which we are not very experienced in, and learn and train back in the dojang, hoping that in the near future we can raise our own standards of these events, through our own local and regional tournaments as well. There are just so many aspects to this marvellous martial art (not limited to tournament events) that we can learn about, and I am glad to know that it is practiced with so much respect all around the world.

During the Closing Ceremonies on the last day, August 12, there was also several performances including Taiko Drum group performances and dances which were a treat to watch and end the tournament on a high note.

President Choi notably mentioned how the quality of Taekwon-Do has been raised to such a high level this year, and that how he hopes to have the Olympics recognize our beautiful art in the near future.

The Japanese delegation invited our team to dinner that evening, and we had a lovely meal in the hotel’s renowned restaurant. It was a great end to our short-lived trip to Canada, and it further shows how in Taekwon-Do we always have international friends and a good time wherever we go.

On behalf of the Singapore delegation I would like to thank the President of ITF, President Choi, the Co-hosts Mr. Chris Reid and Master Michel Demers of Canada, Ms. Natalie Noriega, the events planner who tirelessly clarified our queries and helped us throughout the trip. and last but definitely not least, Master Sng, whom of course without we would not be having such a fulfilling experience, without whom we would not have Taekwon-Do to not only keep fit, but also to enrich our lives, make international friends, travel and experience many other cultures.

Till the next World Championships in Italy, 2014, let’s all train hard to attend another unforgettable event!

Shaun Chua

Written by Mr. Shaun Chua, 3rd Degree Black Belt, ITF Singapore
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2012

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