I headed out to Beijing, China on August 27th with my coach Brian Bird for the 1st ever World Combat Games put on by Sport Accord. This would be a 7-day martial arts competition with athletes testing their skills in over 15 styles of combative fighting. The style I competed in was grappling under the FILA banner. I take all of my competitions very seriously and train rigorously to ensure that I am at my best to fight. This tournament was no different and I was very excited to get to Beijing and do what I came there to do, win a Gold medal. I didn't want to get my hopes up but for months I had been told this event was going to be huge and that winning it would come with a level of prestige that was greater than anything else I had experienced prior. The World Combat Games did not disappoint. Being in such a cultural city made the trip that much more unique. The World Combat Games was an eye opening experience for me; something I will never forget.


Not just any athlete was able to compete at the World Combat Games. To qualify for this opportunity and the all expense paid trip to Beijing, I competed in Krakow, Poland on March 27-28th at the 2010 FILA Grappling World Championships and had to place within the top 8 competitors in my weight category. For the World Combat Games, there was only one women's and three men's weight categories selected out of the usual 5 women's and 7 men's divisions. For this reason alone I chose to compete in the 60 kg category, which is smaller than my usual weight category of 63kg. In Krakow, not only did I qualify in the top 8 women but I won the Gold medal and won all of my matches. Coming into the World Combat Games, I felt that I was under the most pressure to win than any of my competitors because I had become a favourite as a result of my success in Krakow.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling are the two styles that make up my grappling arsenal. Physical fitness is a huge aspect of preparing myself for competition. My game plan and mental focus are the final key elements to my success. To be the winner, you need to have a winning attitude. You must have confidence when you prepare and when you walk out onto the mat to fight. This is easier said than done. This does not come naturally; you have to train your mind to take over when your body wants to quit. All world class athletes have their tricks. I give credit to the following people for my mental strength as an athlete: my coaches Brian Bird and 2 time freestyle wrestling Olympian Clive Llewellyn, my conditioning instructors and MMA fighter Brad Cardinal, and personal trainer Billy Kim. My training partners Nick Ring and John Louro have also helped me in this aspect of my training. It is very important to me that I surround myself with people that I admire and strive to be like. A quote I use in my training to help me be the best: "I am fast. I am strong. I am skilled. I have put in the time and the effort. I want to win, I can win, I will win".


In preparation for my competitions, everyone in my life knows that my training is my priority and I tend to neglect most other things until the tournament is over. I believe that when I step on the mat, win or lose, I will have done everything possible to be at my best. A typical week for me will consist of 5 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training sessions, 2 technique sessions, 2 wrestling sessions and 2 hard physical conditioning circuit sessions. For the World Combat Games, I also had to run 45 minutes each day to help keep my weight down. During my sparring and drills, I largely focused on dealing with the areas I felt my opponents would be trying to use. This definitely paid off because 3 of my training partners, purple belt Brice Willis, brown belt Brad Cardinal and UFC fighter Jason Day would spend entire matches trying to put me in triangle chokes. I have become very hard to triangle choke because of this. My last opponent at the World Combat Games was from Poland and she took advantage of her very long legs, executing excellent triangle chokes on 3 of her prior opponents in the preliminaries that day. I was confident going into the final with her that I would not get stuck in her devastatingly powerful triangle submission. Thanks to my training partners for pushing me hard every match. They were instrumental in winning my Gold medal.


When I arrived in Beijing, everything was taken care of and ran very smoothly. There was a welcoming committee at the airport shuttling athletes to the hotel, which was an hour away through the crazy traffic of a city whose population is 14 million. The very day I arrived was the day of the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 World Combat Games. I had the honor to be one of the 95 athletes chosen out of 2,000 competitors to participate in the march of the athletes for the Opening Ceremonies. I marched out under the wrestling banner representing the sport of grappling and all Canadian athletes. The stadium was packed full with 20,000 people watching the ceremonies which boasted performances and appearances by celebrities such as Jet Li, Don the Dragon Wilson, Fedor Emelianenko and Jackie Chan. The ceremonies were of Olympic quality.


The athletes for the Games were treated professionally and Sport Accord ensured that all of our needs were taken care of. Our accommodation and meals, as well as access to fitness areas that included an Olympic training facility, were all part of the trip. The competitions for all sports began on August 28th and went until September 3rd. Grappling was on the September 2nd so I had 5 days once I arrived in Beijing to keep busy before my fights. On two occasions, Brian and I went to the training facility where there was a 6,000 square foot mat area to use. The training facility was more impressive than any other competition or place I had trained before. Athletes were practicing and preparing at this location all week long. The Pankration and Grappling team from Japan were working out while we were there so we rolled and trained with them. Training with the Japanese team was just one opportunity out of the many we had to meet and socialize with other country's teams and fighting styles. With over 15 sports represented, the atmosphere was very open and social to all athletes of different fighting styles.


There were lots of opportunities for me to go site seeing and watch other fighting styles at the event. All athletes and coaches were welcomed to take in as much of the Combat Games as they wished. I went to see Calgary Muay Thai fighter Misty Sutherland win the Silver medal, Calgary Women's Wrestling National team competitors Brittanee Laverdure win the Gold medal and Leah Callahan win the Bronze medal. It was very impressive to see so many Calgary athletes at such a high-class world event.


Beijing is a very cultural city and there is so much to take in. Brian and I toured the Forbidden City, which earned its name by being unseen by anyone for 500 years. It had once been the Emperor's Palace. We spent an entire day touring as a group. The Great Wall of China was my favourite place. I would have loved to climb to the top but it is really high up and that's just too many stairs to climb 2 days before competing. The view was amazing and the countryside is breathtaking. Along with climbing the wall, we checked out a jade factory, the same jade factory that made the medals for the summer Olympics in China. We went to a silk factory, an Emperor's tomb and visited a Chinese tea shop where we got to sample teas and learn its history. To top it all off, we enjoyed an herbal foot massage and palm reading. I could have probably skipped the palm reading though, seeing as how I was told that I was toxic and hormonally imbalanced. Taking a full day to site see was one of the best things I could have done before competition, it gave my mind a rest from thinking about competing.


Once the day of my competition came I was excited to fight. There had been so much training and preparation all for one momentous, unforgettable day. In my division, there were 8 women in total representing 8 different countries. The countries represented were: Poland, Sweden, the United States of America, Hungary, Ukraine, France, Italy and Canada. The women were placed in two four-person brackets and then it would be round robin style, each person having 3 matches before the finals. The top competitor on each side would fight for the Gold medal. My first match was against the Ukraine representative. I submitted her with a flying arm bar after only 20 seconds. My second match was against the United States representative Tara LaRosa. Tara LaRosa is 18-2 in MMA and a very tough opponent. I have competed against her before so I knew to be careful of her takedowns because she is good at scrambles and hard to submit. The match went the full length and I won 9-0 on points. My third opponent was the Ukraine representative. I had not seen her compete before but, after watching her first 2 matches, she was landing huge throws in all her matches. I have put in many hours wrestling and was confident in my ability and coaches that I could meet her stand up aggression. It took some time but I finally got to her back standing and got the match to the ground. After that, I worked to mount position and finished with a triangle arm choke.

Flying Armbar


The finals were in the evening to give the athletes time to rest and get focused. On the way back to the venue, there were seemingly endless line-ups of thousands of people outside the building. I was shocked when I finally walked out to the fighting area that all of those people standing outside were there to watch the finals. I found out later that Grappling had the most spectators of any of the sports at the World Combat Games. The venue could facilitate 6,000 people and it was packed full. My Gold medal match was the second fight of the evening. I had just finished warming up with Brian in the practice area and was pumped up and ready to go. A Chinese girl walked me out to the mat with a sign that signified I was the Canadian athlete. I mentioned before that my final opponent was very skilled at her leg triangle chokes. She defeated all of her opponents with it in the preliminary fights. She is a very competitive and confident opponent. She came ready to face me and fought very hard to get the match to her guard at the beginning where I was warding off submission attempts and sweeps. I finally uncrossed her ankles and passed her guard. While passing the guard, I was synching in a triangle arm choke. Once my legs were free of her guard, it was too late for her and my choke was in deep. She tapped out. It was very exciting to have my hand held up in victory to the 6,000 cheering fans.


The awards ceremony will be one of those moments I will never forget. I was awarded the Gold medal, a certificate and the stuffed animal Tiger mascot. Standing on the podium can be lonely when it is because of my coaches, training partners, friends and family that got me to that point with all of their support. They were all up there with me in my heart. It was hard to keep my emotions under control when they played the Canadian National Anthem but I did manage to sing for part of it. After the ceremony and the raising of the Canadian flag, I was interviewed by the media. Lastly, all Gold medalists were tested for doping. Being a professionally organized and legitimate amateur sporting competition, I am glad the Games did the tests because I believe that random dope testing is essential to keep athletes honest and fair.


After the evening competition came to an end, I was still on a winning high and celebrated with my fellow competitors and friends. I did not want to take off my medal and everywhere I went the Chinese people treated me with such high respect and admiration. They were excited to talk and to take pictures with me. This lasted until I left the following day. All of my hard work and determination paid off more than I could have imagined.


This event was made possible for me because of Sport Accord, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FILA grappling and, more specially, Clint Kingsbury and Anne Pellaud, two people that put in a lot of time and effort to promote the sport of grappling. Everyone always notices the athletes but it is because of the organizers that the event is made possible and able to run so smoothly. They should be very proud of what they have accomplished.

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