By Ryan McKinnon
On May 25th, 2019, seven of Canada’s top amateur Muaythai athletes competed at Wu Lin Feng’s China vs Canada event in Henan, China. Accompanying the team were their coaches, Kru Laura Vuculescu of Black Tiger, Ryan Timoffee of Arashi Do, and Vic Costa of K1 Burlington, along with a representative from Muaythai Canada, Jenny Lu.
Immediately upon arriving in Beijing, the Canadian team was whisked away on a packed tour to enjoy some of the popular tourist sites that the country has to offer: The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Beijing hotpot! They then took a bullet train from Beijing to Zhengzhou, where the event was taking place. Athletes went on to do mini photo/video shoots for Henan TV station as well as a press conference. Krudar Muaythai’s Josimar Tulloch was chosen as a representative to speak to the press on behalf of the Canadian athletes. His speech was genuine showed gratitude for the opportunity to compete with the Chinese athletes.
For all the hospitality provided to the athletes, the team came to compete against a very tough group of Chinese athletes. In retrospect, the site-seeing would have better served the Canadians after competition, allowing them adequate time to rest and recover after many hours of travel.
For most athletes in competitive combat sports, they enjoy, and generally prefer talking about the wins. But in the sport of Muaythai, a perfect record simply does not exist. The game is too dynamic, and full of variables. Millimeters matter. Milliseconds matter. Sometimes the conditions in which a bout takes place has more to do with the outcome of the match than what occurs inside the ring itself.
To put it quite simply, our Canadian squad under-performed at the show. All 7 of our athletes took losses in a variety of ways. Pan Am gold medalists Josimar Tulloch and Taylor McClatchie fell short of victory to their opponents, Qiu Xiaofei and Li Mingrui respectively. Pan Am silver medalist Dan Sopa tried to keep up with the attacks from Wang Junyu, but eventually fell behind on points.
Perhaps the greatest display of Canadian combat spirit and determination came from Derek Jolivette.
It sums up the entire Canadian experience at the Wu Lin Feng show.
Derek Jolivette of Arashi-Do Sherwood Park competed against Li Hui in a very evenly-matched affair that grabbed the attention of spectators from the second the bell rang.
For 9 blistering minutes, Jolivette and Hui literally fought in a metaphorical phone booth, with each athlete throwing mixed combinations of hand strikes and strong kicks. Derek demonstrated poise in his ability to absorb Li’s powerful hand strikes while waiting for openings to counter.
Jolivette did a great job in adapting to the WLF ruleset, focusing on his boxing and leg kicks to score an overwhelming majority of points. His first and somewhat critical error was a third round ‘elbow’ to finish a combination, which earned him a stern warning from the referee, potentially swaying momentum in the judges’ eyes from himself to Li.
The bout was so close that judges came to a draw after three rounds. Therefore a fourth round would have to decide a winner in an already tension-filled bout. Once again, an accidental elbow strike from Jolivette gave the referee no choice but to command judges to deduct one point from his fourth round score. This would cause a sense of urgency in Jolivette to finish the fight, or go home losing on points.
Then, with just 1:50 remaining in the fourth round, Jolivette got caught with a strong counter cross from Hui as he was following up a lead hook with a cross of his own. It was perfect placement from Hui, who had success with his strong cross throughout the bout.
Down on points and now having been knocked down, it would have been well understood by fans if Derek Jolivette had decided not to get up, and let his opponent celebrate an early victory. However, with the spirit of a true competitor, Jolivette got off the mat, and continued his pursuit of victory against stacked odds and an experienced opponent.
It was an inspirational moment for everyone who observed it, and perhaps a great lesson in what it takes to compete at such a high level. Regardless of the outcome, Derek Jolivette certainly gave fans something to remember with his highly spirited performance in China.
Jolivette personified the competitiveness of our Canadian team, and the true warrior spirit that exists inside the strongest of competitors. Derek Jolivette could have stayed down, but he would have regretted it. At this point, only a stoppage would have earned him the victory. But that wasn’t why he got up. He got up because he would have been tormented with ‘what ifs’ if he had stayed down. Quitting once enables one’s mind to quit again. Jolivette showed all of us that getting up from the canvas has more to do with one’s personal strength than it does with earning a win.
It was a lesson in heart and determination, two qualities that are never lacking in our Canadian Muaythai athletes. While the wins are always sweeter, they are never felt without the bitterness of defeat.
We now look ahead to the 2019 IFMA World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand where 8 top Canadian athletes will represent our country on the highest stage of amateur competition.
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