By Ryan McKinnon
In Canada’s Muaythai community, the word ‘family’ is used often to describe the community that we are all part of. There is something special about the way muaythai brings people together, especially people who wouldn’t likely get to know one another in any other circumstance. In the case of Riley and Savannah Foden, they actually are family. With a combined record of 65-3, they are heavy favourites going into the World Youth Championships in August.
At 17 years of age, Savannah ‘Lionheart’ Foden is the elder of the siblings, and a returning champion to the World Youth Games. She has a perfect 23-0 record in sanctioned competition, and recently brought home the championship belt from the World Muaythai Expo in Iowa. She has one opportunity to defend her title this August in Bangkok. After that, she will be moving up in age to compete as an adult in future international events.
Savannah’s muaythai journey began at age 10 when her father enrolled her and Riley at Kalmsamrit Gym in Bowmanville. “My dad loved (muaythai). My brother was a very small and a shy kid. Our parents hoped I would give it a chance. Being a female in today’s world, they felt it would offer me some self-defense and give me a boost of confidence.” Savannah fell in love with the art instantly, and completely embraces the culture and rich heritage that muaythai has to offer. Savannah gives a lot of respect to the female pioneers in the sport, and acknowledges that the proverbial torch has been passed to her. “There have been some amazing females who have paved the way, and are still a major inspiration for me. I think my biggest accomplishment to date is having younger female athletes meet me and want to take pictures with me, in the same way I wanted to meet my female muaythai role models.” A Canadian muaythai celebrity in her own right, Savannah Foden has her eyes set on gold once more at the World Youth Championships this August.
Riley ‘Warmachine’ Foden is two years younger than his sister, and collects accolades as often as her. He too just returned home from Iowa with the championship belt in his division, and is returning to Bangkok to claim gold in the 45kg weight class for a second year in a row. He loves the family atmosphere at Kalsamrit, his home away from home. “I think one of my biggest accomplishments so far was winning gold in Bangkok last year. Not because I won the gold entirely, but because I fought the world’s best and it made me realize that I deserved to be there. On top of that, being able to fight and win alongside my sister…I doubt many people will get the opportunity to do the same,” says Riley.
Once a shy kid, Riley utilized muaythai as a vehicle to get him out of his shell. After 7 years of training in the sport, he has amassed an 18-2 record in sanctioned competition, with a perfect record of 13-0 in light contact events. Like his sister, he is a smart forward-moving athlete with a great ability to push the pace when he needs to. He also embraces the culture of muaythai, and recognizes that there is far more to the sport than just competition. “I am so proud to be on this journey with Savannah, our family, which include our teammates and coaches, who are like family. Their support and devotion has formed a life bond. The biggest win in my journey isn’t about belts and titles. Making life long relationships is what it’s all about.” Wise beyond his years. Riley embodies the spirit of these IFMA Youth World Championships. His second visit to the tournament is another step along his journey to one day competing for Canada at the Olympic Games.
The Foden’s represent 2 of 5 athletes from Kalsamrit Gym in Bowmanville who will be representing Canada at the World Youth Championships in Bangkok. The saying, “iron sharpens iron” is evident at Kalsamrit, which continue to produce high quality nak muay who have gone on to represent Canada with pride at international events.
Ryan McKinnon is the host of The Bloody Ballet Podcast and website, found at www.thebloodyballet.com. He is a regular blog contributor to www.lannamma.com and www.mississaugaelite.com. You can find him coaching 5 days a week at the Mississauga Elite Training Center.