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Young competitor takes a balanced approach to sport and school.

WALPOLE ISLAND, Ont

Jewelian Blackbird is hoping to continue representing Canada in taekwondo events right up to the highest levels of the sport.

And the 16-year-old, who lives in Walpole Island, Ont., is proving she just might have what it takes to get there.

Blackbird, who has Mohawk/ Ojibwe ancestry, has already made one national team. In 2013 she was a member of the Canadian cadet (12-14) squad.

That year she competed at an international event in Mexico and returned home with a bronze medal in the heavyweight (over 59 kilogram) category.

Blackbird, who took up the sport when she was eight, is now in her second of three years in the Junior (15-17) age grouping. She placed second in her under-63 kilogram division at the national championships held in June in Montreal.

Though she was not chosen for the national team this year since she did not win her category at the Canadian meet, Blackbird might still compete in a pair of international events this summer.

The Pan American Taekwondo Youth Open is scheduled for Aug. 7 to Aug. 9 in Chicago. And then the Pan American Open World Taekwondo Federation event is set for Sept. 11 to Sept. 13 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Blackbird will indeed participate at the Chicago event. That's because her coach Ryan Formosa is only interested in taking his athletes to that event if it gets sanctioned by the World Taekwondo Federation.

"I'll go if I can," Blackbird said of the Chicago competition. "If not, I'll just stay back to train."

Blackbird trains under Formosa at the Chatham-based Cobra's Taekwondo Training Centre.

"The cost for the Chicago event is rather high," Formosa said, adding a hotel room alone costs about $200 (US) per night. "But if it gets sanctioned, we're going to go. There is no registration deadline. We can wait until the first week of August before deciding whether to go."

Three others athletes from the Chatham club will also compete at the Mexico meet in September.

"Now that I'm going there with my teammates I'll be more comfortable," said Blackbird, adding she did not know any of her fellow Canadian competitors when she took part at the Mexico event two years ago.

Formosa believes Blackbird can fare well at the Mexican meet as well as the Chicago event if she does indeed attend.

"I think she can do very well there," he said. "She's in her second year of junior now. But everything is a building block for next year. The main goal is focusing on next year which will be her last year of junior."

While in her final season of junior competition, Blackbird, who is heading into her Grade 10 studies at Wallaceburg District Secondary School, can also start entering some senior (18 and over events).

"My goal is to try and make the (Canadian) senior team," she said. "And I want to compete in Grand Prix events."

The Grand Prix competitions, held in various countries around the world, are part of the highest series for the sport.

Blackbird is also hoping to one day represent Canada in the Summer Olympics.

"It is so hard to get there, but it's a longer term goal," she said.

"I still want to get there, but there's other things I want to make first."

Formosa believes how far Blackbird gets in taekwondo is up to her. He has seen his share-'of athletes leave the sport after graduating from high school in order to concentrate on their post-secondary school pursuits.

Blackbird, who is hoping to become a social worker, is keen to continue both her athletic and academic endeavours.

"I will try to balance both," she said. "Taekwondo has always been a big part of my life."

Blackbird currently trains four times a week at the Chatham gym, located about 40 minutes from her home. One of seven children in her family she relies on rides from others to get her to her training.

When she is not able to come to the gym, Formosa said Blackbird will call in and receive cardio and muscle conditioning ' advice.

"She can do that stuff at home," he said.

Formosa believes one of the reasons Blackbird has been successful in the sport is because she can adapt to different situations during matches.

"She's very responsive in the ring," he said. "I can make comments to her and what she should be doing and she can do it."

So far it seems Blackbird is making plenty of right moves in her career.

By Sam Laskaris

Windspeaker Contributor
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Title Annotation:sports; Jewelian Blackbird on representing Canada in taekwondo events
Author:Laskaris, Sam
Publication:Windspeaker
Date:Aug 1, 2015
Words:765
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