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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Falconbridge tandem prepare to tackle taekwondo talent
by Randy Pascal

The ranks of young athletes filling the local lineup card heading to the 2016 Ontario Summer Games are coming from every corner of the City of Greater Sudbury.

For instance, the Falconbridge Taekwondo group recently confirmed a pair of athletes and a coach among the thousands who will make their way to Mississauga from August 11th to the 14th.

The group features 15 year old Noah Martin, a veteran of taekwondo combat for the past seven years, who added a silver medal at nationals and bronze at provincials to a first place effort at the Tristar Championships, all within the first six months of 2016.

His ability to eliminate distractions has served him well in competition over the years. "I just zone everything else out and focus on what I am doing at the time," said Martin. "When you are in a fight, you tend to do the stuff that is most natural for you."

"You don't think about it much, until you are into a lot of high performance fights. Then, you start to relax in the ring, and you can think during the fight." It's been roughly three years since Martin obtained his black belt, opening up the option of delivering blows to the head.

That said, there is a great deal of strategy that goes into the perfect timing of the strike. "I've been working a lot on my "cut kick", or side kick, pushing them back, making sure they can't come in with it," said Martin.

"Almost all of our drills have to start with a cut. If you just come in with a back leg kick, they're going to block it right away. You have to set it up with something."

Twelve year old Tamara Bouchard, who will accompany Martin to the Games, might not yet have that degree of detail to her taekwondo combat skills. In fact, her first hurdle might easily have been simply overcoming a natural timidness in a sport that tends to attract more aggressive personalities.

"I tried a lot of sports, and didn't really like any of them," said Bouchard. "I'm a very shy person, sometimes - it depends. This helped me get out of my shell. In the ring, I completely forget how I am outside of the ring."

"Once I got into the fighting part of it, it was pretty different for me," Bouchard continued. "I wasn't used to it. But once I actually got all the gear on, it was actually something I enjoyed."

Like so many in the sport, Bouchard strives to seek the perfect balance once the bout begins. "When I had my first black belt fight, I had to work a lot on my defense," she said. "I need to be more comfortable with head shots, and blocking them more."

Perfecting her technique comes courtesy of hours and hours spent on workout sessions with coach Mike Larose, an accomplished taewkondo fighter, who will be working with both Martin and Bouchard in Mississauga.

A long-time martial arts instructor in Falconbridge, Larose was "all in" from the outset with his two high performance athletes, recognizing quickly the sacrifices they were willing to make.

"They need to train at least five to six days a week, because their competition in the Toronto area are just training far too often for them to compete if they don't," explained Larose. "The families make a lot of sacrifices, do a lot of travelling. That's really important too."

A bronze medallist at the Canada Open in February, Larose also placed third at both provincials and nationals, but doesn't seem to mind a whole lot setting aside his own fighting gear for the benefit of the kids.

"One of the bigger challenges now is that I am coaching a lot more, instead of fighting, and it's hard to juggle," he said. "But to be quite honest, my passion is moreso in coaching the kids than competing."

Following is a breakdown of the results to date, this year, for the Falconbridge trio:

January 2016 - Ontario Black Belt Challenge - Mike Larose (1st place)

February 2016 - Canada Open - Mike Larose (3rd place)

March 2016 - Tristar Championship - Noah Martin (1st place), Mike Larose (1st place), Tamara Bouchard (3rd place)

May 2016 - Nationals (Calgary) - Noah Martin (2nd place); Mike Larose (3rd place)

June 2016 - Provincials (Ajax) - Tamara Bouchard (2nd place); Noah Martin (3rd place); Mike Larose (3rd place)

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