International Taekwon-Do Federation


Athletes among world's best

Tim Switzer, Regina Sun Community News

Local tae kwon do medal winners are: (front row) Adrienne McDonald, Colin Folk, Andres Celis, Melissa Mushanski, (second row) Stanley Chow, Boris Celis (coach), Washington Celis (coach), Chris Krywulak, David Wallace and Floyd Bell.

Martial arts bridging the age gap in the Saskatchewan Global Tae Kwon Do Federation. The group, consisting of competitors for ages 15 to 39, recently returned from Toronto where they raked in 15 medals against top competition from 15 countries at the Global Tae Kwon Do Federation World Championships.

Four members of the Saskatchewan contingent were crowned world champions in different events, two of them, Regina teenagers.

Andres Celis, 17, won the title junior men's black belt flying side kick champion while Melissa Mushanski, 15, took top spot in the junior women's black belt sparring competition.

"I feel great winning the gold, bringing it home", said Celis, the son of head coach Washington Celis.

"I was really, really happy because I worked so hard to get there and it was the first really big championship that I had fought in," added Mushanski.

The road to becoming world champions hasn't been easy but it's one that both would gladly travel again. Both said that all of the other "typical" teenage things took a back seat to their training for this championship.

"You just find the time to do (the training)," explained the junior Celis. "You want to be honourable to show up for every class and show  that you're there for a reason."

"It's a little difficult because I had to do my  homework and I had a lot of other stuff going on," added Mushanski. "But I worked hard to keep up my training because I was really determined to do it all."

Head coach Washington Celis says that the determination of these kids makes his job a lot easier.

"These children have been with us since they were six or seven years old so they know what they want," said the native of Chile, who was awarded his sixth degree black belt at the competition. "They grew up with it so it's very easy to discipline them. They know exactly what they have to do to succeed."

The young guns weren't the only ones who had to fight off distraction in order to work their way to Toronto. The group also consisted of several adults who are currently juggling work, family, and tae kwon do.

Adrienne McDonald currently works full-time in addition to keeping tabs on he nine-year-old son Michael.

She took home a bronze in the women's  black belt sparring at the competition. She said that while the balancing act was sometimes difficult to maintain, it was something she just had to do.

"Ever since I was a little I wanted to get into a martial art but my parents didn't put me in it. So, when I was older and had the money and still had the desire, I thought I'd take it up myself so that when I'm old, I didn't have to look back and say I didn't at least give it a try."

Stanley Chow says that even though they put in hours and hours of training during the week, the body can still take a beating during the competition, especially for the older competitors.

"The biggest thing remember is that I' am not 18 anymore or, more importantly that I' am not 15 anymore," said the 32-year-old district supervisor of Westfair Food's pharmacy division.

"You tend to remember yourself as where you were when you were competing at that level and then you realize that you have slowed down a bit."

How, exactly do these athletes handle the pressure of their everyday lives coupled with tae kwon do? That's when Washington Celis and his brother, Boris, an assistant coach who received his fifth degree black belt, lend their assistance. With over 50 years of experience between the two of them, they know what is needed for success.

All of their students, in addition to intense physical training, are taught how to prepare mentally for competing on this level.

"The idea behind the mental preparation is, no matter what the outcome, they're gonna be happy with them-selves," Washington explained.

"I try to explain to them that's it's human to fail. If we win, it's even better, but to give it your best shot is very important. (We're happy) if you left you last drop of energy back there before you left."

Prior to the world championships Celis walked through exactly what the athletes would feel from the moment the stepped on the airplane to the moment they stepped on the podium.

Judging by the medal haul the group brought back, all of that preparation paid off for the Celis brothers and their students.

They said they' re almost as excited as the athlete when one of their students wins a medal.

"Most of these people have been training with us for the past 10 or 15 years," he said. "A part of us is in them when they succeed. We really enjoy it."

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