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Canada Celebrates Double Gold at Pan Am Champs

May 25, 2024

PUNTA DEL ESTE, UY—Canada’s Yamina Lahyanssa and Hana Furumoto-Deshaies both struck gold at the 2024 Senior Pan American Karate Championships on Saturday in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.

Lahyanssa, of Point Claire, Que., successfully defended her title in the women’s -50kg Kumite draw, while Furumoto-Deshaies was also back on the prestigious podium for the second straight year, but the first time in the gold medal position.

“It feels amazing. I am so happy to be able to defend my title this year. I wanted to go in with no pressure, so I really gave it my all and I’m extremely happy to defend that title,” said Lahyanssa.

She sure did.

The 22-year-old brought swagger and confidence with her onto the Tatami all day, winning her matches 3-0 over Argentina before topping Colombia 4-2 and Guatemala 2-0 in her pool to punch a ticket into the finals where she squared off against Colombia’s Sofia Cardenas Balcazar.

Taking the lead early in the match, the small but mighty Canuck continued to chip away at her opponent, continually increasing the lead until the clock hit zero, and she was declared the champion with an 8-4 final.

“Every point, my confidence was just going higher and higher and higher,” said Lahyanssa, who was a silver medallist at the 2023 Pan Am Games. “I felt like I knew how to manage the match. I knew when she was coming. I knew how to time her, and I knew how to manage the end especially, so I’m super happy that my defense was good. It’s a surreal feeling for it to happen twice, consecutive years is amazing.”

Cardenas Balcazar settled for the silver medal. Laura Suarez, also of Colombia, was third along with Venezuela’s Victoria Hernandez Moyeda.

Layhyanssa’s progression through the sport has been steady since she entered her first dojo at the age of seven. She went to her first National Championships in 2016, has been to three World Junior Championships and is the only athlete on the Canadian Karate Team to have competed internationally at a multi-sport Games. She represented Canada at the Junior Pan American Games in December 2021.

Hana Furumoto-Deshaies (Gatineau, Que.), who has also enjoyed a successful path to the international podium over the last two seasons, captured her first Senior Pan American Karate Championship title in the women’s -55kg category.

A packed crowd cheered the feisty Canuck to the top of the podium. The 28-year-old kumite athlete beat Chile’s Valentina Toro Meneses 4-2 in the hard-fought gold-medal match.

“It was surreal. I felt like all of Canada was there with me cheering,” said Furumoto-Deshaies, who was emotional standing on the podium listening to the anthem. “I don’t spend enough time recognizing the good that I’m doing. This was an amazing result, so I just took it in. I closed my eyes and lived in the moment and that’s where my emotions came out.”

Americans Yanilly Machado and Trinity Allen won bronze.

After a 7-7 opening draw to Mexico, Furomoto-Deshaies blanked Brazil 10-0 before locking up her spot in the final with a 4-2 win over the United States.

“It was a lot of physical but also mental preparation (coming into this tournament) so I’m really glad all of the work that I’ve been doing has turned into some good results,” she said.

Furomoto-Deshaies has blazed quite a trail of late.

She claimed her first World Karate Federation Series A podium in Greece in January 2023 with a third-place finish. She won gold at the Continental Cup in Las Vegas, and also claimed her first Series A victory of her career on Canadian turf in Vancouver last year.

Quebec’s Daphne Trahan Perreault was the top Canadian in the women’s Kata competition, with a fifth-place finish.

“Of course it’s a bit bitter sweet being so close to a podium finish but not being on the podium for a second year in a row,” said Trahan Perreault. “But I am very proud of today’s result. Despite some injuries leading up to the tournament, I was still able to demonstrate the hard work I have been putting in my training. I felt in a good place mentally and I enjoyed being on the mats. My mental and my physical preparation all came into play to help me get through each round and keep up with my game plan.

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