To be honest will you, this is probably my most difficult blog to write thus far. Yesterday, I got back from a trip of a life time. I was in Italy competing at my third World Championships but this was my first time in the age 18-34 adult division. I ended up placing 3rd in patterns, and 5th in sparring. To most, this is a huge success, and logically it is for me as well, considering I’m only 19 years old and it was my first time competing against these well known, accomplished and experienced women. Emotionally, I would be lying through my teeth if I told you I was satisfied. I am far from it. I trained to WIN, and anything short of that wasn’t going to cut it for me. I put my heart, soul and time into achieving my specific goal. Unfortunately, this time I didn’t achieve it. Of course I have a lot to be proud of, but I can’t help feeling a strong sense of disappointment.
My preparation for this competition was no different from my past 2 world championships. I was calm and quiet on the way there while having a good time with my parents. I had made weight without having to cut water, my body was healthy and injury free. I had my routines set and my mini-trainings before the competition were going really well and I was in a beautiful country!
However, I could tell that something was a little off. My confidence was shaky this time around and as hard as I tried to turn it around I just couldn’t. I had so much pressure that I had put on myself and so much fear of the unknown and of these experienced women with titles and big names, that I found myself terrified and not nearly as confident as I should’ve been.
The opening ceremonies were incredible this year! Everyone has their preferences and tastes when it comes to entertainment so for me, it was PERFECT. As soon as a walked into the stadium, I saw a Grand Piano on the elevated center ring. I love classical musical music and I practice my patterns to it. They hired a professional Tenor to come and sing the Italian National anthem and a few other extremely when known songs. I had chills the entire time and it was a dream come true in itself! I really appreciated the amount of culture placed into the opening ceremonies. I was also honoured to had been chosen to carry the Canadian flag in with my instructor Mr. LeGrow. It was a really special moment for me. All the performers during the opening ceremonies were amazing and it was a great way to start the competition.
Here are the links to the recap videos!
On the first day of competition, I was the first Team Canada member on the floor competing as my event was the first to start in the morning. I started with patterns which I was happy about so I didn’t need to worry about injuries. I was feeling really nervous for this event but at the same time, I was happy to start with patterns because the only “unknown” element is the judges score; other than that I am the only person in control of my performance. I was really proud of my performances because I was able to calm down as soon as I got onto the mats and really felt like I performed at my best with solid patterns. In the semi-finals, I lost to the reigning World Champion and the silver medalist of this year. The scores were extremely close so I felt proud about winning a Bronze medal (logically).
When I first lost, I felt ok because it hadn’t really sunk in yet and I was still proud of my performance but as the day continued… ouch… it started to sting a little. Again, logically I could justify it but unfortunately emotionally it just hurt, a lot. That night, I had to focus all my energy on turning the page so I could wake up the next morning ready to start fresh and spar my heart out. It’s the first time that I have lost and then had to cope and move forward for the next day. It’s really hard. I was able to get myself together enough to be ready and focussed for my next event, but I still had this uncontrollable fear, stronger than I’ve experienced before. I think I let the names, titles and experience of the others get to me. I couldn’t find my confidence that I needed.
My first fight was against Finland who has been in the division for years and is very talented! It was so close that we actually tied and had to go into over-time. We were neck and neck until the last 10 seconds where I don’t know what happened but my muscle memory came into play and I scored a reverse hooking kick putting me in the lead to win the match. All I remember is telling myself in my head “Kayla, get your S*** together!” 😛 It was a little too close for comfort! In the quarterfinals, I was against Poland who was the reigning World Champion of the lower weight class. We ended up tying, then we tied again for the second time. After that we had to go into sudden death. First point scored wins the match. I gave everything I had but it wasn’t enough that day. I was proud that I was able to compete and fit in with the division. I wasn’t as upset with the fact that I lost, so much as how I FELT when I was sparring. I was disappointed that my confidence was too shaky for me to find my groove in the ring. I found myself timid, insecure, hesitant, and tense. I felt like I was more on survival mode than being in control of the match and having clear vision. I didn’t like that feeling.
I’m in the blue gear.
My final round vs Poland -I’m in the red gear now
I found it hard because after that loss, I started questioning everything and not because of how I placed, but how I felt in the ring, the division and how I saw myself. It was SO weird. I usually get this pump of adrenaline and I have the urge to just go in the ring and go nuts, but for some reason, because of my fear I didn’t feel at ease in the ring. I didn’t get that special feeling that I was longing for that only really happens for me at the Worlds because the calibre is so high.
I had a few days to collect myself before my team sparring event. I had ONE goal for that event and it was to find that special feeling so I could reassure myself that I was still in the right place and I DID belong. I am so hard on myself that I really needed some self-redemption so I could leave this Championship on a more positive note and to realize that I was still in the right place.
I was really excited because our team event was being featured on the center ring which was elevated. When it was time to spar in the team event, I tried a new technique to psych myself up a little to get my feeling of adrenaline pumping. As soon as I got into the ring, my game face went on, I did a quick and aggressive exhale and jumped up onto the mat. I probably looked a little crazy, but I didn’t care because I knew that I needed to do something. It ended up working and I found that special feeling again from the get-go. Our first match as a team was against Norway who ended up winning the silver medal. I was grateful to have been matched up against their fighter who I believe was in my weight category. It was just what I needed for some reassurance. With a bit more confidence and aggression on my part, amazing coaching by Ms. Chelsea Stone and the support from my team, I won my match 4 judges to 0. I was so happy and it was just what I needed to finish off the week. I love being part of a team for that event and I was so proud of our team! Everyone sparred with so much heart and I couldn’t have been more honored to be on a team with these ladies. It’s a completely different dynamic because you aren’t just fighting for yourself anymore, but for your team cheering you on. It’s a really special experience.
Throughout the week, there were many ups and downs with daily hurdles and at the end of the day, I didn’t achieve what I had set out to do. It hurts because I put everything I had into this journey and this time, It wasn’t enough. I feel like I have let myself down, my coaches, my sponsors, everyone who has invested time and energy into me and my journey, and my country down. It’s not the greatest feeling in the world and I think I tried to convince myself that I was ok, but I am not.
I realized something though. The last Worlds that I competed in, was the END of a chapter of the junior division. I need to see this Worlds as just the first page of a new chapter. I can’t zip line from the top of one mountain to the peak of a new higher mountain, I have to climb up again. I realized that maybe this Worlds isn’t actually about how I placed, but what I DO with how I placed and learn from the experience to make me better. I am not always going to win, and that’s ok, it happens for a reason and maybe it happened this time because it’s meant to make me better for next time.
This is my rationalization to help me sleep at night 😉 because my chest still feels like exploding most of the time and to be honest, right now it’s easier for me to WRITE about how I am feeling compared to TALKING about it.
This being said, don’t get me wrong. It’s all about the experience and I had so many positive highlights! I loved getting to travel, spend time with my parents and team mates, make new friends, seeing old competitors that are now friends, talk to other coaches from across the world, see some of the Grandmasters that I have gotten to know throughout the years, compete in the sport I love more than anything, cheer my teammates on and have an experience that most people don’t get to have. Yes, I am not happy with my result but the trip and overall experience was still absolutely amazing! When I think about the past two years, the places I’ve gotten to go, people I have gotten to meet, people that have reached out to me and how much I myself have grown as a person, I really couldn’t ask for more and I feel extremely grateful.
The week I had with my parents afterwards in Rome, Venice and Capri was perfect for me to take everything in, breathe, and pick myself up a bit before I came home, see my friends and write this blog. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel and see the world and such beautiful sights. It truly makes it much more than a tournament but a full life experience. My parents were so supportive throughout the whole week with me being a ticking time bomb of stress and emotions that I was glad we all got a relaxed week together. I couldn’t have made it through the week without them.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to some very important people! I would like to thank all my family and friends for your support throughout the entire journey, Darrell Bartraw for your ongoing love and support and for organizing my fundraiser at the Barrhaven Legion, McDonald’s Barrhaven for your generous sponsorship, Dr. Anthony Aiello from Connexion Family Health Team Ottawa for donating physio sessions to me to make sure I stayed injury free and healthy, Cathy Priestman for CP business solutions for sponsoring my all of my Marketing for my Believe project and my ikicklikeagirl.com brand, Master Phil Nguyen from Black belt Excellence TKD for kindly letting me use his dojang space to train especially in my last month of training, and to Mr. Joel Denis for his help, guidance and support as well as letting me use his dojang space to train as well leading up to this world championships. I would like to thank Mr. LeGrow for all that he has done and all the time and effort he has put into coaching me the past 7 years. Finally I would like to thank our Team Manager, Valérie Précourt and all of our Team Canada coaches (Mr. Nicholas Tran, Ms. Chelsea Stone, Master David Hiltz, Mr. Phillip Parent, Mr. Ken McKenzie, Mr. Richard Nguyen and Ms. Brandi Merritt) for all your time and effort. We were extremely lucky and fortunate to have such amazing and experienced coaches. They all worked so hard!
Without all these special, warm hearted and generous people I wouldn’t have been able to compete this year. I will forever be extremely grateful. Thank you SO much for helping me represent Canada at this Worlds.
Now, it’s time to enjoy a little break, lick my wounds a bit and get back to training. I may have no clue what my next step or goal is, but I do know that there are always lessons behind things that happen. It’s my job now to figure out what the lessons are, learn from and continue to let my passion for what I do push me to strive for greatness. It is simply the beginning and I know that If I keep working hard and pushing to improve, I will do better next time! Overall, in the grand scheme of things, even though I am leaving with an achy heart, it was a really amazing experience and I am so grateful for every little thing that happened on that trip, and I mean everything.
I have to admit, I was reluctant to write this blog…I was slightly running away from my feelings that I have so swiftly pushed under the rug but I think it was good for me to just share and be honest with how I am feeling because I am human and I am not always going to win. It’s ok though, who knows, maybe not winning will end up being the perfect thing for me in the long run. I guess I will just have to find out and MAKE it so it ends up actually being a positive thing.
Well friends, that’s all I got for now 😛
For more pictures, check out this link! Thanks Mom for taking such incredible pictures of everyone.