By Ryan McKinnon
Sara Buzcek of Kitchener represented Canada at the 2018 Pan American Championship in Argentina last December in the 63.5 kg Female Elite division. Competing alongside Dan Sopa, her stablemate from TKO Fighting Arts, Sara qualified for the national team at the Muaythai Canada National Championship in October. She received solid financial support through her GoFundMe page, as well as a lot of emotional and mental support from her friends, her partner, her family and TKO teammates.
MTC: What was your relationship like with your teammates? You had a teammate in Dan Sopa at the event. Is there anyone else that you clicked with? Did this experience strengthen your relationship with Dan?
SB: I was very fortunate to have Dan Sopa there to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with. I didn’t know any of the other team Canada members and having him there, being from the same gym, coaching one another, and just knowing each other a bit made a world of difference. We were able to talk about the pre and post competition and debrief, which helps when you have someone who knows your styles and strengths. Plus he’s just a cool guy to get to hang with. We’ve only been training together a little over a year so it was cool to get to know him better outside of the gym in a different setting. The other team members were great too. The overall vibe between everyone was great, and I felt very lucky to be surrounded by a group of such high level athletes who all share a powerful drive and determination to compete at their best. I was able to gain a lot of knowledge and insight just by being around them.
MTC: Describe your 2 bouts against Brazil and USA. Your first bout was against Camila Dias of Brazil, and the second against Angela Whitley from the US team.
SB: On day 2 of the event, I competed against Camila Dias of Brazil. I stopped her in the second round. That was a great preamble for the bout against Angela Whitley of the USA. I had the chance to watch Angela compete earlier in the tournament and see her style. She was a strong opponent. I found out after the competition from talking to her that she is a wrestler, which made total sense to me because it felt as though she was just trying to take me down the whole fight. I prefer longer range weapons and she knew my striking was strong so she kept closing the distance well and clinching up with me. Overall, I think I did very well and held my own against a very strong opponent.
MTC: What was is like working with a different coaching staff? How do they differ from your head coach, Kru Chris Greig? Were you in touch with him and your coaches during your time in Argentina, and what advice did he give you, if any?
SB: Working with different coaches is always interesting because everyone has their own style. Again, I’ve been at TKO for about a year, so even working with Chris has been relatively new. But I just love the way Chris is in the corner. He is good at reading what you need and telling you what you need to do at any moment. I just trust him. Over time, I have had the opportunity to work with an array of coaches and this has helped me learn to adjust to different coaches and styles. So working with coaches I have never met wasn’t a big deal.
Vic and Darwin were both awesome! They held a few training sessions at the beginning of the week and did a phenomenal job attending to the specific needs of each fighter. Going into the ring in Argentina, I focused on what Chris always says before we go in the ring, “Just go in there and do what you do. At this point you have all the tools. Just go in the ring and play.”
MTC: What do you have planned for the rest of the year before the World Championships in Bangkok?
SB: Train. Fight. Train. Train. Eat. Sleep. Train. Fight. I’m just on a mission of constant growth as a human being, and competing helps me grow in so many ways. I’m so lucky to have martial arts in my life because I really don’t know where I would be without it. So I’m just going to keep training, keep pushing, keep growing and be as ready as I can be for anything that comes my way.
MTC: What does it mean to represent Canada at the highest level of international amateur Muaythai competition? Does it have a special meaning for you as a female athlete?
SB: It means the world to me. I feel privileged. It comes with the duty of a lot of hard work. It represents a big opportunity. As a female, it’s very special. It’s hard for anyone to make it in sports, females especially. There are many different forces and challenges. It’s amazing to see more and more female athletes representing and killing it!
MTC: Describe the event itself. What was Argentina like? How was the tournament run, from your perspective?
SB: I think the tournament ran super well! Everything went smooth and on time. Everyone was professional and showed high levels of respect to one another. It was really cool to be a part of. From what I got to see of Argentina, it was nice. I wish I had the chance to spend more time there and explore more of the country. Hopefully another time.
Sara competed strongly against Camila Dias of Brazil in the second day of competition. In the first round she used her boxing and lead teep extremely well as she gauged her distance carefully against the Brazilian. She picked up her intensity in round two, pushing forward relentlessly. She earned a second round stoppage after a pair of teeps and hand combination turned the head of Dias, forcing the referee to begin a standing 8 count, which turned into the eventual referee stoppage.
Her loss in the finals to Angela Whitley earned her the silver medal, and a lot more respect from her opponent. Sara competed well against Whitley who demonstrated a slight strength advantage in the clinch, which slowed down Buzcek’s ability to put together combinations.
When asked to reflect on the Pan Ams, Sara replied, “I am so grateful for the whole experience. This has been something I’ve always wanted to do and finally it came true. It has opened my mind up to more possibilities, and shown me the start of something big. I’d just like to thank everyone for all of their support. I’m just so happy and lucky to be able to do what I love.
Ryan McKinnon is the host of The Bloody Ballet Podcast and website, found at www.thebloodyballet.com.