When Calgary teens Donya Movaffagh, 15, and Ethan Tomusange, 16, return home from their successful Canada Games performance in karate, they will need to find a space to show off their respective medals. Gold medals.
“It feels amazing,” Movaffagh told the Calgary Eyeopener in a Friday interview.
“I am honoured to be representing Alberta. It feels great to be standing on the top shelf.”
Movaffagh took gold in under 59-kilogram women’s karate and Tomusange did the same in under 68-kilogram men’s.
“It wasn’t easy, especially because a lot of the girls I had to fight were friends of mine, so it was interesting,” Movaffagh explained.
What’s fighting a friend like?
“For me, it wasn’t the best, because I have so much respect for them as people but when you are in the ring and they are your opponent, in that moment, you need to just do what you have to do. Do your job. You have to put friendship aside and then once you get off the tatami you can be friends again.”
Tomusange says for him, building a network of unwavering support was key to managing nerves.
“Talking to family members, my trainer, my coaches. The support of my team, knowing that even if I lose I am out, I will still be loved. I will still train with them. Nothing will change. So I might as well just leave everything I have on the mat and, you know, win,” he said.
And for Movaffagh, it’s a matter of being kind to yourself.
“I think there are always nerves involved. I think it’s mostly about just having confidence in yourself and knowing your ability, and knowing that no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world and there will always be tomorrow,” she said.
‘Really good cardio’
Tomusange says conditioning and keeping a cool head paved the road to his gold medal.
“You have to have really good cardio. My game plan was to throw as many attacks as I could in a small amount of time so if I made any mistakes I could fix them, early on in the fight,” Tomusange said.
“Kicks, punches, every technique needs a purpose. You can’t just throw without a purpose because it just makes it easier for your opponent to counter you. You need to have a level head. You don’t want to go berserk and throw wild punches all the time.”
Movaffagh says her parents encouraged her to get active at an early age.
“I tried swimming and dance and other sports but they never really stuck with me.”
Influences include Power Rangers, Batman
But for Tomusange it was a matter of emulating pop culture.
“I got into karate from watching Power Rangers and cartoons like Batman. I just really liked the fighting scenes and all that stuff. I was like, ‘I want to do something like this.’ That really gave me the spark to pursue the sport.”
Karate made its debut at the Canada Games this year, although it’s been part of the Olympics since 2020 and the Pan American Games since 1995.
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