By Ryan McKinnon
Evan Gonsalves was Canada’s only youth athlete to represent at the 2018 Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires. Although he didn’t capture gold, the event was a great learning opportunity for one of Canada’s top prospects. He earned some valuable experience, and made memories that will stay with him for life. Below is a reflection of his experience in Argentina, in his own words.
Muaythai Canada: Tell us about the Pan Ams.
Evan Gonsalves: The tournament was absolutely amazing!! It was my very first international event and everyone at the tournament made me feel very welcome and treated me with a lot of respect. It was well organized and every official and volunteer were always ready, making sure everything was done, including the weigh ins, the fights, and the ceremonies. Overall this tournament really opened up my eyes to real Muaythai and all the different styles and strategies that are involved in fighting. This experience truly made me a better fighter.
MTC: What was it like competing in a smaller ring?
EG: Fighting in a small ring was very challenging for me because I’m used to competing in a bigger ring. I use a lot of movement and footwork. I am very fast and I like to switch stances and use different angles. I felt like I couldn’t utilize my strengths. Every time I took 3 steps I’d hit the ropes. It was a a very confined space, forcing me to get into a war with my opponent, which is too high risk, because it can go either way when we are literally toe to toe, trying to outpoint one another.
Overall, I found it was very hard to fight in a such a small ring because it took away some of my advantages that make me the fighter that I am (they call me “Showtime” for a reason!!). I had to make change’s to my style last minute. I really had to adapt and find a different way to win, but you never know what will happen in a fight. Regardless it was a lot of fun and I learned important lessons to add to my game for next time.
MTC: Overall, how do you feel about your performance?
EG: I competed against Moises Arango from Columbia. He was a great opponent and it was a great fight. felt like my performance was pretty good. It was not my best as I could not set up my combos because my opponent was keeping me in close distance (also because of the small ring. There was no where to go) and putting me in the clinch where he held me and tried to throw knees and elbows. Midway through the second round I could feel that he was getting tired, and I was not because of the intense training camps before leaving on this trip, so my cardio was on point. But I quickly learned that my clinch needed work. I thought I did enough by landing big shots and spinning attacks but as it turned out it was a very close fight. I was disappointed in the decision but I have had some time to reflect and have turned it into a learning opportunity that I will be back for with a WIN!!
MTC: What was it like being the only youth athlete on the national team?
EG: At first when I found out I was the only youth athlete I was kind of nervous and scared not knowing how I would be able to connect to the team because of the age difference, but as it turned out age didn’t seem to matter, we were connected by the passion of the sport that we all shared together and the bond we had as TEAM CANADA!! I was very happy because I got to be apart of TEAM CANADA and that has always been a huge dream of mine.
From the moment I arrived on this trip not only did I get to meet and train with all these amazing athletes, I got to become friends with them. I got to learn so much about fighting and about life and how to be a better person. They were all so nice and I felt like there was no age difference at all. They helped me out a lot in and out of the ring. They taught me new techniques and taught me how to be a better fighter. They all shared their strategies and what they like to do to prepare before fights. They were so supportive and always talking to me and including me; warming me up and getting me pumped up for my fight. I loved the energy of our TEAM it was amazing and honestly I loved being the only youth athlete. It was awesome and I will never forget this experience at the Pan Ams.
The last night of the trip was one of my favourite nights. Everyone had fought, we were celebrating our wins and losses together out at an authentic Argentinean restaurant until the restaurant closed!! Lots of laughs, lots of memories and Lots of new friendships were made!
MTC: What kind of encouragement and advice did you receive from your coaches & teammates?
EG: My teammates and coaches were incredible. They were always warming me up and keeping me hyped and ready to go!! They always had advice to make me better and kept me focused. They were teaching me about certain things they do. For example, I learned a lot about visualization and meditation; how you always see different ways of winning and finishing fights and how you should even visualize what you are gonna eat after the fight. I learned so much about the other fighters and their styles but also so much about myself and how I can better develop as a fighter. I am young and there is a big adventure a head.
MTC: Is there anyone you’d like to thank, and anything else you would like to add?
EG: I have to thank my parents who took a lot of time off work and even working extra just so I could go and do this. I want give a huge thanks to them because without them I would not have anything and would not be the person and fighter I am today.
Ryan McKinnon is the host of The Bloody Ballet Podcast and website, found at www.thebloodyballet.com.