"Every Medal Has A Story - European Championship 2008, Belgium, Gold Medals x 2"

WUKF —80kg and Teams

I had been living in Canada for a mere seven months when the president of Romania Karate Federation (WUKF) asked me if I would still be interested in representing Romania at the upcoming European Championship in Belgium. The proposition alone prompted in me a rekindling connection towards my native homeland of Romania. Having only immigrated to Canada in 2007, I was still not a Canadian citizen, which also meant that I could not represent Canada in competition. As with particular obstacles and challenges posed upon relocating immigrants, I too tackled mine one by one in search of my way into a new culture. For me, adapting to a new lifestyle meant climbing beyond the barriers of language, the struggles of unemployment and the distresses of being isolated from traditional support structure of family, social circles, colleagues and community. My new challenges began posing a mounting toll on my daily consciousness often finding myself feeling lost, alienated and disoriented in my new hometown.

Of course, when I heard news from the president of the federation, Mr. Crisan, I felt an immediate sense of encouragement. I was honoured and humbled by the request, but no sooner had I realized that having moved across the ocean I no longer had the familiar support of the federation backing me as a Romanian athlete. I could not imagine how it would be possible to compete at the Europeans, and felt no choice but to decline the idea as I knew I personally could not furnish the expense. 

Mr. Crisan approached me one more time, “If you’re still interested, I will do my best to help you find a sponsor,” he said. And without further hesitation I answered, “Yes!”

With a goal in place I felt an immediate rush of energy lift my spirits, as though an aura of faith was now within reach. Mr. Crisan worked intently and quickly to find my sponsor and buy my airplane ticket, for three months later I was on my way to the Europeans. 

During those few months of preparation, I trained even more than I had ever been used to; every morning I woke up to go running and proceeded each day with a cardio and fitness workout; every evening I trained at a different dojo. I was also watching my diet, as I needed to lose 2 kilos to qualify for the 80kg category. One of the dojos where I sometimes trained belonged to a friend of mine, Anthony, who himself was an athlete and a coach. Twice a week, he made time to help me in the park with my physical fitness—agility, cardio, speed, endurance, flexibility, power and speed. He had a day job, and sometimes he would even take the whole day off to train me. He gave me a sense of having a team behind my back. My training continued and intensified day by day until the moment I left for Belgium. 

I was very excited to be going to the Europeans but at the same time I felt worried because I did not want to disappoint the president nor my sponsor; the ticket for me to come all the way from Canada was expensive, and the efforts being made to organize my sponsorship seemed like such a big deal. I did not want to disappoint the National Team of Romania; I did not want to disappoint Anthony for all his generosity; and I did not want to disappoint myself. 

Being at the Europeans that year presented me an occasion to associate more fluently with many more athletes and teams from different countries, as living in Montreal granted me the opportunity of learning and engaging in two international languages—French and English. When I was younger, in elementary and high school, I did not fathom the benefits of studying languages. But when I was at the Europeans, for the first time in my life I recognized the assets of having multiple languages under my belt. Now that I was communicating on a new level of comfort, I appreciated being able to build stronger connections with friends from different parts of the world. 

After three days of thorough competition I won my division and I won two events in teams, all with good results! I was very proud to represent Romania. I felt a big relief of happiness and honour to have won, knowing the demands I put upon myself. Being physically and mentally strong anchored me to achieve those results. 

I want to thank the president of Romania Karate Federation (WUKF), Liviu Crisan; my sponsor Marian Risnoveanu; and my friend, coach and athlete Anthony Bhagwandin for all of their encouragement, support and the energy spent helping me.

What I learned from this competition:

1. If you have an opportunity to do something, and if you are physically able of doing it, then do it.

2. Appreciate the power you have to make possibilities come true. 

3. Sometimes you may think you are alone but you are not; you just have to look around.