International Taekwon-Do Federation

SASKATCHEWAN GTF NEWS

Man with a golden touch. Tae Kwon Do championship in his grasp

By Cory Wolfe of The Saskatoon Sun

Clint Diekema holds championships medal

Before Clint Diekema could test his skills against some of the world's best martial artists, he had to sit and wait.

He lingered for 14 hours on opening day without getting called to the ring.

But it was worth the wait - in gold.

Diekema proved unbeatable when he finally  got down to business at the Global Tae Kwon Do Federation world championships in Toronto. He captured gold in the men's heavyweight sparring competition.

"I couldn't  believe that I won," says the 23-year-old Saskatoon native, who holds a second degree black belt. "I went just to get the experience to go for next year because I've never really competed on that level. I don't even think it has sunk in now".

A surprise turnout of about 350 blackbelts meant long delays for some competitors including Diekema.

"I ended up warming up probably 15 times during the day because you don't want to go into a match stiff if you've sitting on hardwood floor all day," says Diekema.

Although Diekema did not compete on Day 1, he did not waste the day. He scouted his opponents and dissected their styles.

"I eve watched the refs to know how much contact they would allow," says Diekema. "Even though it's a contact tournament, some judges will still say no contact."

On Day 2, Diekema beat his first opponent, an Italian, and then earned a bye  to Round 3. There, he took a stiff punch to the face from his Puerto Rican foe.

"He hit me and knocked me out for half a second. As soon as he hit me, I went out and then I fell back and head hit the ground. It was like it woke me back up," he says nonchalantly.

Diekema rebounded to win the match and earn a spot in the final against a Russian.

"We were going really hard and it was really close for the first 30 or 35 seconds," says Diekema. "Then I got him with a really good shot in the stomach and that was it. He could hardly do anything after that. We had to go another two-minute round after that, but he couldn't catch his breath."

Besides being a 5-foot-8, 165-pound sparring star, Diekema heads his own tae kwon do school in Saskatoon.

"I always knew that I wanted to open club as soon as I was done school," says Diekema. "I just went on my own and it went really well. As soon as I opened, I had probably 130 people right off the bat. It's been staying about 150 people."

Through teaching, Diekema is sharing a passion that began when he was 11.

"I remember that when I was really young, that's just what I wanted to do," he says. "Movies and stuff probably influenced me, but I saw a demonstration  in the Confederation Mall when I was younger - just watching them break boards and fly and do all of their patterns and the kicks, that's what drew me to it."

Diekema earned his black belt when he was 15 and subsequently earned his second degree black belt. He was just weeks away from testing for his third-degree black belt when he had to step out of the sport for hernia surgery.

"I was into lifting weights a lot, working out pretty heavy, like three or four hours a day and just, POP!" he says.

Diekema was out of tae kwon do for two years before his competitive appetite could keep him away no longer. The last four years of heavy-duty training have culminated in his first world championship.

Diekema in now a member of Global Tae Kwon Do Federation's Canadian team and is guaranteed a spot at the next world championships which Russia will host in 2004. If he continues to excel, his globe-trotting could continue for years to come.

"The whole federation helps fund-raise, so it makes it really cheap to go," he says.

Although Diekema invests hour after hour into training - including a daily 5 a.m. jog - he has a family fan club in his wife, Shaye, and their three-year-old daughter, Chayse. He is also inspired by his students.

"I'll be in it for a long time," says Diekema. "They have worlds every two years, so I'd like to go until I'm like 35."

He can hardly wait.


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