By Ryan McKinnon
The build up to this year’s Pan Ams in Mexico City was met with a sense of trepidation as a series of earthquakes beginning on September 7 in Chiapas rocked the country. The central Mexico earthquake on September 19th had a magnitude of 7.1, and took the lives of hundreds of people, injuring thousands more. The overall mood in Mexico City was sombre as aftershocks and minor earthquakes continued to threaten the country. The event itself was on the cusp of being cancelled due to those unfortunate circumstances. Thanks to the quick and decisive actions of the Confederacion Panamericana de Muaythai (CPM), the 2017 Pan American Muaythai Championships were held as planned, and received a lot of positive feedback from athletes, coaches and fans.
A venue change was made from the Centro Nacional de Alto Rendimento to the Conade Olympic training facility in order to keep the tournament on track. Athletes and coaches were offered dorm room style accommodations with 4 people to a room, and access to the facility and cafeteria. 62 bouts were held over 3 days inside 1 ring as athletes from 10 Pan American countries representing 18 weight classes competed to bring gold back to their respective homes.
Seven Canadian athletes travelled to Mexico this year. Two athletes competed against high level competition and won gold in their respective weight classes. Amin Almelik of Warrior Muay Thai competed against Nahoma Hernandez from Mexico in the 67 kg Elite Male division on day 2. Amin had to push himself hard in this bout due to the elevation change that he wasn’t prepared for. Many athletes and coaches posted on social media that the higher elevation definitely had an effect on everyone’s performances. Amin secured the decision win, which moved him to the finals on day 3. Amin took on Rodrigo Diaz from Peru in the championship bout. In this match, Amin appeared to have made an adjustment to the thinner air, and won his bout with more ease than his previous one. Congratulations Amin on earning the gold!
Canada’s second athlete to bring home the gold was Yumiko Kawano of Krudar Muay Thai. Yumiko was in Merida, Mexico only a week earlier competing in the Mayan Cup alongside her stablemate Janice Lyn. After both ladies won their bouts in Merida, then travelled to Mexico City with some bumps and bruises from their bouts. Janice would corner Yumiko on her journey to winning the gold.
Yumiko met Daniela Hernandez of Mexico in the 54kg Elite Female division in her qualifying bout. Yumiko, known for her limitless gas tank, appeared to be unfazed by the change in elevation. She won her first bout handily, moving herself into the championship bout on day 3. Yumiko took on the ultra-talented Selina Flores from the United States who was on an 8-fight win streak leading up to this bout. After 3 grueling rounds of action, Yumiko managed to find a way to win, earning herself the decision victory over the young American standout. It was an extremely challenging bout for both women. Yumiko decisively won round 2, while rounds 1 and 3 were much closer to score, and up for debate amongst spectators. Fans in Toronto will be able to watch the rematch between these two female powerhouses in late November. Congratulations Yumiko Kawano, the 2017 Pan American champion, and people’s champ!
The rest of the Canadian squad brought their best efforts to Mexico, competing against some of the best athletes in the Americas at an elevation that they weren’t truly prepared for. Excuses aside, everyone represented themselves and their countries like true professionals, earning the admiration of athletes and coaches from the other 9 countries. We look forward to seeing our Canadian team continue to develop for future competition.
The official medal count is as follows:
|Female 54 kg||Yumiko Kawano||Gold|
|Male 67 kg||Amin Almelik||Gold|
|Male 81 kg||Turner Swan||Bronze|
|Male 86 kg||Ryan James||Bronze|
|Male 91 kg||Noel Hussey||Bronze|
It wasn’t all about competition however. Tournaments like these help improve relations between countries. IFMA’s program ‘Sport is Your gang’ was represented at the tournament, as a large group of at-risk Mexican youth were brought to the event to share in the experience with athletes. Our Canadian athletes demonstrated their love of the sport and participation in this charitable program as they held pads for the youth and spent time with them during the final day of the tournament.
There was another important milestone that helped improve relations between each country’s federal sporting organization. A general assembly took place to discuss the planning of future events that will help Pan American nations develop their athletes to be even more competitive at the World Championship level. The overall goal is to prepare athletes for the highest level of international competition against Asian and European countries that have been developing their Muaythai programs for much longer than the Americas.
The overall planning of the tournament by the CPM was truly commendable, especially given the special set of circumstances surrounding the 3 days. There has been nothing but praise for the work they did to ensure that this years tournament was held. Amidst the tragedy that surrounded the event, every country represented well this year. Next up for Canada will be the 2017 Canadian National Muaythai Championship from November 10-12.