Karate Canada Celebrates Medal Winning 2023
Strong leadership, clear communication, strengthening relationships, operating in full transparency and accountability with excellence as the unifying core summarizes the 2023 season in our program’s continued quest to achieve a medal-winning standard both on the field of play and in the boardroom.
The holiday season which is just around corner allows for a natural time for reflection. Karate Canada will charge into the holiday season celebrating a year where the sport made its Canada Games debut, captured a World Championship medal, three trips to the podium at the Pan Am Games and countless personal best performances around the globe.
The first ever Canada Games medals were handed out in Summerside, P.E.I. this February with karate finally receiving inclusion into the domestic multi-sport Games lineup for the first time.
Providing an opportunity for both the sport and the athletes to showcase themselves in front of a national audience on the country’s biggest multi-sport stage, the first Canada Games competition signaled years of hard work for the governing body’s senior leaders.
“Within Canada, this really is, for me, the pinnacle,” said Craig Vokey, Karate Canada President. “To get in the Canada Games, it’s such a unique event for the developing athletes. Having an opportunity for these young athletes to participate in a multi-sport event similar to the Olympics, that kind of experience in their karate careers is pretty significant, and I’m so happy we were able to make this happen.”
Crowds packed the karate venue that took centre stage during the first week of the Games. The success story kicked off a season of victories for athletes, coaches, event leaders and the organization at large.
Two months later, nearly 600 of the top karatekas from are the world, including 89 Canadians, descended on Richmond, B.C. for the Karate 1-Series A event.
Two Canadian karate athletes enjoyed breakthrough international performances on home turf while
climbing onto the gold and bronze medal steps of the World Karate Federation Series A podium at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
Hana Furumoto-Deshaies (Gatineau, Que.) celebrated the first Series A victory of her career in the -55kg category, while Montreal’s Selma Raad got her Series A career off to a medal-winning start, scrapping her way to the bronze medal in the women’s -61kg division.
The golden triumph by Furumoto-Deshaies marked the first time a Canadian won a Series-A event since 2018 when Haya Jumaa stood atop the podium.
Speaking of golden triumphs, three athletes – Calgary’s Natalie Olson (para karate), Ontario’s Patricia Wright (para karate) and Montreal’s Yamina Lahyanssa – led an eight-medal haul for Team Canada at the Senior Pan American Championships in Costa Rica. All three athletes sang the national anthem atop the podium.
Hana Furumoto-Deshais snagged a silver, while Claudia Laos-Loo, Melissa Bratic and Yassin Miri (Montreal), all battled to bronze. The Canadian women’s kumite athletes including Furumoto-Deshais, Lily-Rose Nolet, Kate Campbell and alternate Melissa Bratic also grabbed a bronze medal in the Team competition.
Natalie Olson continued her golden run into June by winning the gold medal in para-karate at the Virtus Global Games that showcases 1,000 athletes in multiple sports.
With a bag full of loot in tow, athletes returned to Canada in July from karate events around the world for the largest National Championships ever. More than 600 athletes, 797 entries from 10 provinces/territories battled for national crowns in Laval, Que. The event also marked the first time the North West Territories sent a team.
The largest team of Canadian karatekas ever assembled to fight at the Junior Pan American Championships travelled to Santiago, Chile where they combined to win six gold, four silver and six bronze medals in Kumite and Kata events. The 89-member Canadian squad finished fourth overall in the medal count during the three-day affair for the first time in Karate Canada history. The following athletes captured gold: Mariana Guerrero (Kitchener, Ont.): Aryan Kohi (Toronto); Omar Almishri (Calgary); Cadence Truong (Markham, Ont.); Megan Rochette (Gatineua, Que.); and Lily-Rose Nolet (Gatineau, Que.)
The baby Canucks continued following the Canadian trail to the podium into September at the Mexico Youth League. Mariana Guerrero and Iliana Karagianni both watched the Canadian flag be raised above the top step of the podium. Cadence Truong, Talya Rabiner and Ella Crowle all claimed silvers.
Natalie Olson once again stole the show into the fall, leading the way for the Canucks into the Senior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. The para karate athlete captured the nation’s only medal with a gutsy effort in the K22 classification.
“Natalie’s elimination round was a bit shaky which placed her second and having to battle for the bronze,” said Caoch Heather Fidyk. “She was a bit disappointed after the elimination round but then reflected, rebounded and had a fabulous kata performance in the bronze medal final. I am very proud of her achievements.”
And so too, was the entire nation.
The courageous Canadian regrouped and battled back to take home the bronze.
“I felt really good about how I performed and was so happy to win the bronze medal. Next time, I will go for the gold,” said Olson.
Olson’s medal-winning performance inspired a six-pack of Canucks who travelled from Budapest to Santiago, Chile for their debuts at the Pan American Games.
Canada sent Melissa Bratic (Mississauga, Ont.), Hana Furumoto-Deshaies (Gatineau, Que.), Yamina Lahyanssa, Lily-Rose Nolet and Ryan O’Neil (Halifax, N.S) to compete in kumite. Claudia Laos-Loo (Surrey, B.C.) was the lone kata athlete.
The Canucks celebrated a medal hat trick with two bronze and a silver.
Claudia Laos-Loo brought the Canadian karate community to its feet, winning the nation its first ever medal in the sport’s Kata discipline at the Pan Am Games, after taking bronze in a thriller.
Yamina Lahyanssa took one more step up the Pan American Games podium, winning the silver.
The 21-year-old scrapper put the nation on her back in the women’s -50kg weight class, fighting her way through the round robin and into the first senior Pan American Games final of her career.
Melissa Bratic capped off a season to remember for Karate Canada by taking the bronze in the women’s -68kg weight class on the ultimate stage for karate athletes.
“I am elated to witness the remarkable success of our athletes in 2023. Their exceptional performances have not only brought home medals but have also showcased the culmination of strategic planning, relentless training, and unwavering determination,” said Rodney Hobson, Sport Technical Leader, Karate Canada. “These results underscore the effectiveness of our high-performance programs and the athletes’ commitment to reaching the pinnacle of their abilities. This success is a testament to the collective effort of athletes, coaches, families and support staff, and it propels us toward even greater achievements on the global stage. Well done, Team Canada!”
Wrapped around these successes is the continued commitment by Karate Canada to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all by signing an agreement to join Abuse-Free Sport, the new independent program to prevent and address maltreatment in sport. Karate Canada, and its stakeholders at the national level, now have access to the services of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which serves as the central hub of Abuse-Free Sport.
“Karate Canada believes that everyone in sport has the right to enjoy a positive experience regardless of skill level or ability. A safe and inclusive training and competitive environment for athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans is critical to the long-term health of our sport and is our number one priority,” said Chris Bright, executive director, Karate Canada. “Signing onto the Abuse-Free Sport program is another step forward in our continued commitment to ensure the preservation of a safe karate community.”
Strong leadership is important for the national body for karate in Canada to continue to build on the momentum leading into the New Year. Karate Canada re-elected two Directors and welcomed three new Directors to its nine-member Board led by President, Craig Vokey at the 2023 Annual General Meeting.
Patricia Karl and and Oleg Raileanu were both re-elected for three-year terms while the Board of Directors welcomed three new faces in October. British Columbia’s Andreas Kuntze was elected to a one-year term as Vice-President. Quebec’s Yogen Mungroosing was elected to a Director at Large position for one year, while Ontario’s Daniel Sanchez Griborio was appointed by the Athlete Council to begin a three year term as Athlete Director.
“I am very proud of the commitment the athletes have shown to train, to travel and the compete so well, representing Canada throughout the year,” added Chris Bright. “We know it takes a village to get an athlete to its highest stages, and for that we thank the families, club coaches, provincial and territorial coaches and of course our National Team coaches for guiding the entire team to such a successful year. The Karate Canada Board of Directors and staff are excited to continue building this positive team culture into 2024!”