Team NB is ready to start the first Canada games with karate

Karate will be part of the Canada Games for the first time in its 56-year history.  (Graham Thompson/CBC - photo credit)

Karate will be part of the Canada Games for the first time in its 56-year history. (Graham Thompson/CBC – photo credit)

Evan Snow and Jacob LeBlanc may only be 16, but for the past two years they’ve been preparing to compete in a historic moment in Canada’s track and field competition.

The two teenagers will be part of the New Brunswick karate team at the 2023 Canada Winter Games, where the sport will be included for the first time in the event’s 56-year history.

“We can show the world what karate really is,” LeBlanc said. “Because a lot of people think it’s chopping wood and all that, but it’s not.”

The pair will join three other athletes on the karate team at the games, which will be held at Prince Edward Island from February 18th to March 5th.

Graham Thompson/CBC

Graham Thompson/CBC

In preparation, LeBlanc and Snow trained six days a week at KV Karate in Rothesay. Also the home dojo of the team’s coach and team manager, Hilary Pond, who is a national team athlete.

In the sport’s first year at the Games, competition is limited to athletes aged 16 and 17.

While Pond said it’s a shame the pool is so limited, she believes the Games will be an important stepping stone for young athletes before they enter adult competition.

Graham Thompson/CBC

Graham Thompson/CBC

“It’s good to have a nice big event like this to get used to being on such a big stage before they move on to more challenges as they get older,” she said.

Snow will compete in kumite, which pits two athletes against each other, while LeBlanc will compete in kumite and kata, in which the athletes perform choreographed moves themselves.

LeBlanc and Snow came to the sport in different ways.

CLOCK | Enter the Dojo with Jacob LeBlanc and Evan Snow:

LeBlanc has been at the dojo since he was eight after his father thought it would be a good way to ensure he was disciplined.

For him, the sport quickly had an impact on his life outside of athletics.

“I learned English through this sport, so that’s really great for me,” said LeBlanc, who is a Francophonist. “Now I’m a black belt. That’s great too.”

Snow only picked up the belt four years ago when a friend’s family was looking for a sport that all ages could compete in. Snow came along and fell in love.

Graham Thompson/CBC

Graham Thompson/CBC

“I thought I was only in until I got my black belt. And then I would probably move on to other things. But to be honest, I’m going to stick with it for as long as possible,” he said.

Four years and several competitions later, he said the sport left an indelible mark on his life.

“It’s not just a sport, it’s what I do. It’s who I am,” he said.

LeBlanc said karate offers a unique perspective.

“It’s a self-defense sport. So if someone attacks you, you attack them back. But it’s not about hurting him,” he said.

Graham Thompson/CBC

Graham Thompson/CBC

Pond said the three often talk about the effects of karate in the same way because it’s true.

“I think it’s because martial arts lags far behind sport,” she said.

“So the sport is one thing, but all the discipline and the mental aspects that come with it that we’re taught when we join, I think that’s what really impresses you.”

Sharing the sport they love

LeBlanc looks forward to sharing the sport with the Canadians at the Games.

“I know there aren’t a lot of people doing karate in New Brunswick,” he said. “But I’m very happy to be one of them and to represent all of New Brunswick [karate community].”

Pond hopes the Games will help generate interest in the sport.

Graham Thompson/CBC

Graham Thompson/CBC

“You see it in the movies, but people don’t know the sporting side,” she said. “So I think just having more ways to broadcast this for people to see will hopefully help participation.”

Snow said the sport isn’t as mainstream as hockey, basketball, or soccer.

“But it’s just as good if not better than those sports in my opinion, but people don’t try it because they don’t see it that way,” he said.


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