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Kicking it up with katas in karate at the Games
by Randy Pascal

Representatives of the Benoit Martial Arts Studio have spanned the globe, participating in provincial, national and international events over the course of the past couple of decades.

Still, there is something different to the Ontario Summer Games (OSG).

For starters, the bi-annual gathering is one of the rare multi-sport festivals in which the local martial artists enjoy the opportunity to rub shoulders with athletes from a multitude of different sporting backgrounds.

Furthermore, there are new faces to be seen, new friendships to be forged. "There will be athletes there that we haven't competed with, athletes from all over Ontario, and some people who don't really go to the Karate Ontario events," noted 15 year old Marissa Meandro, making her second appearance at the Games.

"That's pretty cool, because we haven't seen them before." For younger sister Juliana (12) and Benoit teammate Connor Di Salle (11), the whole setting will be new, both having qualified to the OSG for the very first time.

"I am trying to be confident, but not overly confident," said Juliana Meandro. "I'm nervous, but the nerves are always there. It's a good thing. It pushes me to do better, it motivates me."

For Di Salle, the Games offer the chance to put a finished product on display, the end result of months of fine-tuning. "Last year, I learned three new "katas" (forms), and all through the year, I've been practicing them really hard, getting them down pat," he said.

"I have a pretty good memory, so once I get the movements down, I kind of just know them. I don't really have to think about them." The Meandro siblings, along with Di Salle and Club veteran Bradley Chaput, are all competing in "katas", the non-combat portion of the karate tournament.

All four remain focused on the keys to success. "Number one for me is a lot of power," said Di Salle. "It comes from your legs and core, but you see it when I do my hand movements."

Similar story for Chaput, who is expected to battle it out with provincial rival Aryan Khaleghpanah for the gold and silver medals. "It's always back and forth, it's always really close between us," said Chaput.

"He's smaller than me. I have more physical power, so I try and use that to my advantage, show as much power as I possibly can. He is quicker, faster." Preparing to start his grade eleven year at Collège Notre-Dame, Chaput looks to every available option when it comes to seeking out the smallest of margins of victory.

"There's not a lot of new katas, but there's a lot of small details that sometimes I'm not aware of," he said. "The judges will give us feedback, which helps us learn."

All four locals will be in action in the next days, as the 2016 Ontario Summer Games take place in Mississauga.

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