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Karate nationals a home-team hit

Three senior titles most for B.C. since 1999

Burnaby martial artists won nine gold medals at the Karate Canada nationals hosted by Richmond this weekend.

Burnaby Karate Academy's Derek Chan and Victoria Barusic, who trains out of the West River Hayashi-Ryu dojo, garnered five of the gold-medal harvest at the nationals.

Chan won his third consecutive gold in kumite, or sparring, in the junior division, winning again in the under-61 kilogram division. Chan, a bronze medallist at the junior men's Pan-American championships last year, also came in first in the under-21 u-60kg class. The Burnaby black belt shared a first-place team medal in cadet/junior kata, or forms, as well.

The 17-year-old Chan also placed fourth in the u-60kg kumite senior classification.

Chan avenged a firstround loss to Kevin Kugler of Quebec to win the u-21 title with back-to-back match wins of 2-0 and 3-1 in the double-elimination competition.

He then went on to take the Canadian junior title.

"I didn't want to be that guy who wins at under-21 and then lost to a junior athlete," said Chan, who was also buoyed by his fourth-place result in his first foray into the senior competition.

"It went a lot better than I expected. It helped my confidence," said Chan. "I've heard about these big names for four or five years, and now I know that I'm not that far behind them."

Barusic came away with three medals from the nationals, including a pair of gold.

The 17-year-old Byrne Creek Secondary student won both the junior and under-21 women's under53kg kumite. Barusic also won a bronze medal in the individual u-21 kata.

Barusic twice defeated senior u-50kg Canadian champion and Burnaby Academy's Jusleen Virk, including a judges' 3-2 decision in the final of the u-21 weight class.

Trailing 3-0 in the final minute of the round, Barusic scored three points, using hands to the head to knot the match 3-3.

"I knew if I just went in, I wouldn't have gotten the points. I had to be careful going in," Barusic said.

"Going into the finals, I knew she wouldn't let it be easy. Winning that final has made me see the improvement I've made from last year's nationals to now. It's been phenomenal."

The Burnaby Karate Academy was a big source of city pride, winning seven of the gold medals.

"I don't know if we could have had a better tournament," said BKA sensei Sandeep Gill. "This is the 10th year Burnaby has consistently sent athletes to the nationals. It's the best we've ever done."

Cody Martin, with his first senior men's title, Shaun Dhillon and Virk all claimed individual gold, matching a result that B.C. martial artists, as a whole, have failed to achieve at the nationals for the past 14 years.

Martin won the u-60kg men's kumite, while Dhillon won at plus-84kg.

All three senior winners earned Team Canada spots for the Pan Ams in Nicaragua in May.

Burnaby North student and brown belt Isabel Chan, 14, also won a gold defending her national title in the cadet girls' u47kg kumite. Vanessa Vung of Burnaby placed fourth overall in the same division.

Cedomir Vasic won his first-time national title at plus-76kg in junior men's sparring.

Aya Kitaoka, a 13-yearold Burnaby green belt, was also a big story at the nats, finishing in second place in the cadet girls' plus-54kg kumite class to become the youngest member of Team B.C.

"A green belt in a blackbelt championship - the lowest belt and the lowest age - she had quite the tournament," said Gill.

Reid Lofstrom won a silver in the junior girls' plus-59kg kumite.

Brown belt Harpreet Sidhu also medalled for the Burnaby Karate Academy. Sidhu placed third in the junior women's plus-59kg kumite.

Also earning bronze were Brenden Ly, Dylan Robinson and Arash Behytoei, whose thirdplace finish in the men's open weight competition earned him a spot at a special exhibition tournament in Spain next month.

Ly placed third in the cadet boys' plus-70kg, while Robinson medalled in the u-21 men's u-78kg.

Andrea Maikawa was a fourth-place finisher in the senior women's u-61kg kumite.

Maikawa also shared a team bronze medal in the senior kumite event with Virk and Celynne Belanger.

"I am extremely proud of our team," said Gill. "I hope this is another step in creating a strong program in our city as well as all of British Columbia."