Two of the eight members of Alberta's karate team for the Canada Winter Games train at the Ippon Karate Dojo in Cochrane.
Cochranite Owen Cousine, 17, and teammate Karna Kokame, 16, of Calgary, are en route to PEI today to compete for Alberta during the first week of competition. It's the first time karate has been an event at the games.
Cousine is thrilled to have the opportunity to represent the province and his hometown. He says he's been training with a different mindset ever since being named to the team.
"I am very excited. I'm a little nervous, too," says Cousine. "I'm going to go there to win, but if I don't, the experience alone will help me build towards future competitions."
The 17-year-old started karate at four years old and began competing at 14.
Leading up to his selection for the team, Cousine won silver medals in both kumite and kata at the Seattle West Coast Open in October in his first international competition. He lost by one point to a world-champion member of Team USA. He says he came in as an underdog and fought his way up.
"I felt I represented my country well in that tournament, and myself, being the unknown kid."
Cousine, Kokame, and other members of Team Alberta went to Italy to the Venice Youth League to help prepare for the games. For both, it was their first opportunity to compete in Europe.
"I feel like my past competitions, especially Venice, have helped me open my eyes on how I'm supposed to be because you don't realize how good the rest of the world is, how good other people are until you go over there and compete against them. The opportunity I had in Venice has been eye-opening and I think I've used that perfectly to pump up my training leading up to the Canada games."
"I'm sure it won't be my last time, but it was my first time and a little nerve-racking, but it was a really good experience overall."
After the Canada games, he's hoping to prove himself at one of the largest competitions in the world in Vancouver in April. After that, he wants to compete at the nationals this July in Laval, QC, and aspires to advance to the Pan American Karate Championship being hosted by Chile in November. Looking a bit further out, he has his eye on the Karate World Championship in 2024.
It's a 45-minute drive for Karna Kokame, of Calgary, to train here, but she says it's worthwhile.
The 16-year-old took up karate at age six and has been training at the Ippon Karate Dojo for four years.
She is excited to have the opportunity to represent Alberta at the games.
"I think the fact that I was able to keep growing for 10 years is just mind-blowing to me because I haven't done any other sports. I hope to be able to do well at the Canada games."
Like Cousine, she believes competing in Venice was a valuable experience.
"We went there to prepare for the Canada Winter Games, but I think it was also an opportunity to grow in general, as well."
Also participating in the games from Cochrane are hockey players Kadon McCann and Raedyn Spademan, alpine para-skiing manager Ozzie Sawicki, and para-skier Kalle Eriksson.