Qualicum Beach martial artist Matteo Bennett will get a golden opportunity to compete on a big stage when he heads to Costa Rica for the Pan American Junior and Cadet Taekwondo Championships beginning June 29.
The Cascadia Martial Arts (Parksville) student will compete as a member of the Canadian cadet team.
“I am really excited to go,” said Bennett, who earned a spot on the national team when he won gold in his first Canadian Taekwondo Championships held in Toronto last May. “I am blown away because this all happened so fast. I am looking forward to sparring in my age group and weight division. It’s going to be a great experience.”
The Grade 8 student at Kwalikum Secondary has been working hard for more than a month to get in fighting shape. He’s been working out under the guidance of Cascadia instructors Dustin and Brett Fee.
“I have been training a lot harder and my coaches are making sure I don’t get hurt,” Bennett said. “Sometimes I do feel nervous just thinking about it but I am confident I will do well.”
Bennett has also been travelling to Vancouver to train with other members of the Canadian team.
“It’s crazy just being there,” said Bennett. “I am so excited and also nervous at the same time. To get the opportunity to train with some of the best was awesome.”
The 13-year-old said he savoured the experience and has absorbed knowledge that has helped him improve his form.
“One of them is ‘don’t lose focus,’” said Bennett. “I have done that in one of my matches and caught two kicks in the head. It wasn’t fun. But I learned.”
Bennett has been in taekwondo since he was six years old.
“I just fell in love with it,” said Bennett. “I like that you really have to work hard to achieve the goals that you want. It’s quite a workout, too. I get a lot of exercise doing it. I am pretty tired after every class. The cardio is probably the hardest part of it. You just need to keep on going especially during matches. It’s fun.”
To get the chance to compete at an international stage has inspired Bennett.
“I want to become a fourth dan blackbelt and maybe get the opportunity to go to the Olympics,” said Bennett. “That would be crazy. I would also love to go to the world championships in Bulgaria. That would be a really good experience for me.”
Bennett will leave for Costa Rica on Sunday. He thanked his support team at Cascadia and home for helping him prepare for the competition.
“I couldn’t have gotten this far without them,” he said.