SURREY — Six athletes who train at a Surrey taekwondo school will represent Canada at big competitions on different points of the globe this month.
Ashlyn Arnold and Shane Britton are headed for the Universiade Summer Games in Taiwan, while the quartet of Sofie Nicholson, Mya Nicholson, Josipa Kafadar and Kyler Arnold are off to Costa Rica for the Pan Am Taekwondo Union championships.
As a coach, Thornton will attend both competitions.
“It’s been a real honour to have kids like this on our team here,” he said, “because they work really hard. And I remember when some of them first joined the team, they were really shy and not really into the idea of competing. But I saw the potential and sort of recruited them and said, ‘You guys can do this, you have the potential, just join the team,’ and two years later they’re on the national team. It’s been great to see.”
Members of Thornton’s high-performance competition team train five to six days a week, two or three hours a day.
“It’s pretty rigorous,” he said Monday (July 31) as the athletes warmed up.
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The Nicholson sisters, both students at Sullivan Heights Secondary, live near the taekwondo school.
“Both have trained here since they’re were something like nine years old,” Thornton noted.
Fellow Surrey resident Britton was already a student at the school (then known as Woo Kim) when Thornton bought the business in 2004.
“He’s been part of my competition team since he was eight or nine years old, and he’s now turning 20 this year,” Thornton said. “He’s been a big part of this school for a long time, and he’s now also an assistant instructor here. He works here, trains here, he pretty much eats, sleeps and breathes taekwondo.”
A bio on the school’s website describes Britton as a fourth-degree Black Belt who is “fantastic with children and is an exceptional leader.” He’s also among the top competitors in the country, as a three-time national taekwondo champion who has represented Canada at the Pan-American Championships and world championships.
Britton and Ashlyn Arnold both qualified for the Universiade Summer Games at a senior nationals competition in Montreal, where they had to be top finishers among university students.
“They both ended up with silver medals, and were both beaten by opponents who were not eligible to go to the Universiade Games, so they both ended up qualifying to go,” Thornton explained. “Shane ended up losing by a single point in overtime, just narrowly, and Ashlyn ended up competing against the 2016 Rio Olympics competitor from Canada, so it was a big honour for her just for that reason.”
The Universiade duo leave for Taipei on Aug. 15, while the four Pan-American competitors fly out on Aug. 25.
The Arnold siblings live in Port Moody, and Kafadar lives in Burnaby.
For all the Vortex-schooled athletes, representing Canada on the international stage is a big deal.
“For the Universiade Games (athletes), that’s probably the pinnacle for those guys, to date,” Thornton said. “Both have been to some high-level championships in the past, but the Universiade Games is probably the biggest event for them. It’s the largest amateur sport competition outside the Olympics, so it’s big. Team Canada has 396 athletes in multiple sports, and there’s opening ceremonies, fireworks, the whole nine yards.”