World’s com­ing to N.L.

Cen­tral na­tive chair­ing in­ter­na­tional World Tra­di­tional Karate-Do Cham­pi­onships in St John’s Oct 22-28

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KRYSTA CAR­ROLL

Michelle Critch is no stranger to in­ter­na­tional karate com­pe­ti­tion, but she has never ex­pe­ri­enced such com­pe­ti­tion in her home prov­ince.

This month she will, when hun­dreds of com­peti­tors from around the world come to St. John’s for the World Tra­di­tional Karate-Do Cham­pi­onships.

Critch is more than just a com­peti­tor.

She is chair­per­son of the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, and the Team Canada man­ager.

Born in Grand Falls-Wind­sor, Critch’s fam­ily moved to Badger when she was 15 and she lived there for many years.

She moved back to Grand Fall­sWind­sor seven years ago with her mom when her dad passed away.

Grow­ing up, she was al­ways phys­i­cally ac­tive, par­tic­i­pat­ing in sports like fig­ure skat­ing and gym­nas­tics.

Af­ter high school, how­ever, she says the sports choices for adults was lim­ited.

Then she learned that karate classes were start­ing in Badger.

“I had no idea or in­ter­est in karate be­fore, so I thought that may give me the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity that I need,” Critch told The Cen­tral Voice. “That was back in 1983. Once I walked in the door my life changed from there.”

Af­ter a few months of karate in Badger the or­ga­niz­ers de­cided to have every­one train in Grand Falls-Wind­sor, so she trav­elled back and forth.

Critch opened her own club when the teacher left, and has had her own club ever since; cur­rently it op­er­ates from High Street.

Critch be­gan com­pet­ing na­tion­ally in 1991, and won her first na­tional event in Italy in 1994 to earn a spot on the Cana­dian team.

“Ev­ery year af­ter that I at­tended an in­ter­na­tional event be­cause ev­ery two years is a worlds and ev­ery two years is a Pan Amer­i­cans.”

She be­came the first Cana­dian ever to win a World Karate Cham­pi­onship in Switzer­land in 2004.

She also trained a world cham­pion.

Ma­rina Evans from Grand Falls-Wind­sor started train­ing with Critch when she was a young girl.

“I used to al­ways tell her, ‘You have the abil­ity to be a world cham­pion, you are go­ing to be the next world cham­pion for Canada’,” Critch re­calls.

Af­ter mov­ing to Saskatchewan, Evans con­tin­ued train­ing.

“And sure enough, in 2010 she was the next Cana­dian to win the world cham­pi­onships and she beat the same girl in the same event that I did six years prior,” Critch said.

Critch re­tired from com­pe­ti­tion in 2008, de­cid­ing to fo­cus on coach­ing and the ad­min­is­tra­tive side of the sport.

This year, how­ever, how­ever a 10-year hia­tus, she re­turned to com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning two golds and a sil­ver at a com­pe­ti­tion in Saska­toon.

“I wanted to do it just to show the young peo­ple that it’s not just a young per­son’s dis­ci­pline,” Critch said. “Karate is some­thing you can do your en­tire life, it be­comes a way of life.”

She adds karate is a sport that is not just about com­pe­ti­tion.

“It teaches kids to be more re­spect­ful for them­selves, for oth­ers.

“Poland has done a study that chil­dren that train in the mar­tial arts tend to do bet­ter in school, (and have) less in­ci­dence of bul­ly­ing be­cause it’s teach­ing them re­spect.”

Bring­ing the world to N.L. Last year Canada was asked to host the World Tra­di­tional Karate-Do Cham­pi­onships and New­found­land and Labrador was the cho­sen des­ti­na­tion.

From Oct. 22-28, with the ac­tual com­pe­ti­tion on Oct. 26 and 27, 800-1,000 ath­letes of all ages and coaches from around the world will con­verge on Mile One Sta­dium in St. John’s.

There are 61 coun­tries regis­tered un­der the World Tra­di­tional Karate Fed­er­a­tion, how­ever, New­found­land is an ex­pen­sive place to visit, Critch said, so she is hope­ful at least half of th­ese coun­tries will be rep­re­sented at the event.

There are com­peti­tors ex­pected from Poland, Uzbek­istan, Rus­sia, Ukraine, Great Bri­tain, Czech Repub­lic, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, United States and of course Canada, among oth­ers.

Critch said about 35 ath­letes from Grand Falls-Wind­sor, and a group from Lewis­porte, as well as some from Gander who train with her, will be com­pet­ing.

The com­pe­ti­tion is not just for adults.

The Chil­dren’s World Cup will take place on Oct. 26 with cat­e­gories for seven-and-un­der and coloured belts right up to 17 years old.

There will also be a ju­nior black belt di­vi­sion in the world black belt cham­pi­onships on Satur­day.

“There was a time when I started that the world cham­pi­onships were only for black belts, only adults for the best in the world,” Critch said. “The last cou­ple of years Poland has been re­ally paving the way to in­tro­duce chil­dren, so they are call­ing it the Chil­dren’s Peace Cup and the World Tra­di­tional Chil­dren’s Cham­pi­onships.

“We are try­ing to use the world black belt cham­pi­onship as a plat­form for the kids to be ex­posed to in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, meet­ing friends from all over the world.”

Two years ago Critch took a group of chil­dren to Poland to the World Cham­pi­onships. There, she says, they made friends with chil­dren from all over the world.

“I tell all the chil­dren when we are pre­par­ing that it’s not about win­ning gold, sil­ver or bronze, it’s the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing part of such an amaz­ing event that only hap­pens ev­ery two years, and only hap­pens in one of 60 coun­tries ev­ery two years,” Critch said. “Be­ing able to ex­pe­ri­ence it now in our prov­ince — in our coun­try — they will prob­a­bly never ex­pe­ri­ence it again.”

“What I want to get out of this is for every­one who’s com­ing from around the world to have an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of New­found­land, some­thing that they’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced in any other coun­try in their life, and I want them to have a good ex­pe­ri­ence with the com­pe­ti­tion – that it was well run, ev­ery­thing went on time, and they were well taken care of,” Critch said. “That’s my goal is every­one com­ing and hav­ing an amaz­ing time.”

KRYSTA CAR­ROLL PHOTO

Grand Falls-Wind­sor’s Michelle Critch is chair­ing the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee for the World Tra­di­tional Karate-Do Cham­pi­onships tak­ing place in St. John’s Oct. 22-28. This is the first time the prov­ince has hosted the world cham­pi­onships, which will fea­ture 800-1,000 ath­letes from around the world.

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