Pembroke woman wins martial arts world championship 0
Bernadette Demong, a member and instructor with the Pembroke-based Demers Taekwon-do Ottawa Valley, won the gold medal and is now the reigning World Champion in the Senior Women’s Sparring Hyperweight Division after defeating three world class opponents at the 2012 Taekwondo World Competition, held in Gatineau during the Aug. 6-12 event.
A local woman has joined the ranks of the best in the world in taekwondo, winning the gold at the 2012 Taekwondo World Competition, held in Gatineau earlier this month.
Bernadette Demong, a member and instructor with the Pembroke-based Demers Taekwon-do Ottawa Valley, was named the reigning World Champion in the Senior Women’s Sparring Hyperweight Division (for those 44 years and up) after defeating three world class opponents during the Aug. 6-12 event, which is held once every two years.
The win secures her a berth as defending champion in the 2014 world competition, which is being held in Italy.
“This just shocked the hell out of me,” Ms. Demong said. “Nobody expected it, including me.”
She and her 14-year-old son Erik Fleurant are members of the taekwondo school her husband Luc Fleurant founded. A third degree black belt, he competed in the world championship in Korea in 2010, but was unable to do so this year as he is currently deployed overseas. However, his wife and son both qualified to represent Canada in the world competition. They were among 35 to 40 players representing this country.
This was no mere regional event. It attracted 1,000 athletes from 50 countries from around the world, and all participants knew they were competing in front of the best of the best of those who practice their martial art.
“This is the Mecca of the cream of the crop,” she said.
Before heading to Gatineau, Ms. Demong was happy just to have earned the right to stand on the same mat as the top competitors in the world. She said she felt how can she as an instructor encourage her students if she doesn’t do it herself.
“I wanted to be able to go back to the club and tell them to get the spot, that it is all about earning the right to be there (and not necessarily winning medals).”
That was the furthest thing from her mind.
Having earned her black belt in November, just being allowed to compete would have been honour enough and a remarkable achievement. This is what she told her son, who competed with the best in the world in his weight category, but was eliminated after the first fight.
When Ms. Demong faced her first opponent, a fifth degree black belt from Alaska, who runs her own martial arts school of several hundred students, she figured it would end quickly. In taekwondo events, the strongest competitors are always linked up with the weakest or less experienced ones.
Instead, she found herself the upset winner of the match.
“I beat her,” she said, a fact acknowledged by her opponent, who praised her skill and stamina.
Ms. Demong’s next opponent, a lady from Argentina, bowed out rather than face her.
“I guess I scared her or something, because she wouldn’t compete with me,” she said, “so I won by default.”
Her last match was with a tough competitor from England, and in battle, the two proved to be an even match. It was only after looking at the points as awarded by the judges did she realize she had won the gold medal, by one point.
“Three bouts and wow, I win a world title,” Ms. Demong said, admitting she is still finding it hard to fully appreciate her achievement. “I guess I surprised people.”
Her husband wasn’t surprised she did well, but was taken off guard by how well she did.
“Luc knew I would be a contender, and thought I’d fare well,” she said. “He was shocked by the gold medal, though.”
Her neighbours, who have gotten used to Ms. Demong training in her driveway, and the constant roadwork she put in after hours, weren’t surprised by how well she did. That hard training gave her the endurance to outlast her opponents. Getting tips on how to spar from John Ryan, the father of one of her students and an ex-boxer, plus the experience of hitting and being hit by a sparring partner all added up.
Since word began to spread of her win, she said she is being constantly approached by other women who are both thrilled and inspired by her gold medal performance.
“It is amazing how many women have been coming up to me saying I’ve inspired them to do more,” Ms. Demong said.
As for Italy, there is a real possibility it could become a family affair. Besides herself and her husband, Ms. Demong expects Erik to qualify to compete again, and by 2014 her daughter Renée will be old enough to take part.
“We’d be going as a family,” she said. Even her father is excited by the idea.
“When I won the gold medal, my dad shouted out how we were going to Italy,” she said with a laugh.
Her next challenge will come closer to home. She intends to get the taekwondo school going again in September, and hopes to inspire her students with her win.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist