The 2020 Olympic Team Qualifiers was one of the most talented group of athletes Ontario has ever assembled for a tournament of this scale, in my opinion.
On Nov. 13, I was fortunate to be selected to be one of the Ontario provincial team coaches to assist our top athletes in Montreal. The entire coaching staff for Team Ontario is: Socrates Celestial (Head Coach), yours truly, Rick Cadilha, Rey Morales and Team Manager, Kaitlyn Clark. The coaching staff is a collection of experienced and supportive cast to Team Ontario during the first two training camps, held at the Arnie Boehm Training Centre in Waterloo and then at the Olympic Team Qualifiers in Montreal.
The two camps held on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 at the Arnie Boehm Training Centre in Waterloo, Ontario consisted of light sparring, meaning specific offensive and defensive drills, speed drills, informative mini seminars on mental performance, and nutrition. An officiating referee explained what judges are looking for while boxing, from scoring to legal punches and ring control, so the athletes have a clear idea as to what officials and judges are looking for in the ring. Later, we had a seminar on sport-specific stretching and rehabilitation methods, individual photoshoots, and finished up talking to athletes about our team schedules while in Montreal for the five days. Finally, code of conduct and expectations of athletes, in and out of the ring. All athletes need to take responsibility for their role in representing their province and country.
The Olympic Pathway Roadmap (Quick Overview for American and Canadian Athletes Road to Olympics, looks like this)
- Olympic Team Qualifiers, Montreal, Quebec from Dec 16 – 21, 2019
- Winners advance to American Olympic Qualifications event in Buenos Aires, Argentina from March 26 – April 3, 2020
- World Olympic Qualifications, Paris, France from May 13 – 24, 2020
- Olympic Games in Tokoyo, Japan, summer of 2020. (The holy grail, going for Gold medal to be Olympic Champion).
For the other continents, there Olympic Qualifiers events are as follows:
- Asia/Oceania: held in Wuhan, China from February 3 – 14, 2020
- Africa: held in Dakar, Senegal from February 20 – 29, 2020
- Europe: held in London, Great Britain from March 13 – 23, 2020, all of the winners would advance to the World Qualifiers in Paris, France May 13 – 24, 2020. Qualifies for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Boxing Ontario is the provincial sport organization under Boxing Canada, Canada’s national boxing authority, who is now governed by the world’s amateur boxing organization by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) after the IOC dissolved the AIBA (International Boxing Association) earlier this year due to corruption charges. Boxing Ontario decided to assemble to best provincial coaching staff to help assist the athletes and provide guidance towards a strong performance at the Montreal qualifiers.
What this tournament does is: By elimination whether against an existing national team (National champ) or and an up-and-coming boxing athlete is decide (by elimination who the best representative is for each weight class for Canada’s Olympic team moving forward into the next two (2) international world tournaments, one in Argentina and the world Olympic Qualifier in Paris, France.
The athletes that were selected were: John Michael Bianco, Jack Hemmings, Jason Antoine, Jaquan Carty, Ian Parina, Justin Parina, Spencer Wilcox, Sara Buczek, Jahanger Faquiry, Jynelle Bourne, Austine Bayani, Nikita Abbott, Marvin Ude, Rebecca D’Agostin, Aaron Huggins, Leo Kamara, Mandy Bujold, Melinda Watpool, Garinder Takhar, Moe Zawadi and Sunny Thind.
On this above list, a few of the athletes mentioned are already national team representatives who had to enter this tournament to re-qualify for the National Team.
On Dec. 6, Boxing Canada made a rule change that headgear must be worn by all competitors at all domestic boxing events, including the Montreal Olympic Team Qualifiers (in the previous Nationals, headgear for elite males was removed since 2013). As of Dec. 6, Boxing Canada made it a mandatory rule change to bring back headgear due to the increased number of cuts over three to four days of competition.
Monday, Dec. 16 was the arrival day for everyone entered into the Olympic Team Qualifiers. The first round draw commenced later that evening to determine who would be competing in the first round, including “byes” referring to the current national champions who for the most part would not be competing in the first round. This draw would consist of all the top athletes from their respective provinces and including the current national team champions, as to who would be competing in the first or second round of the tournament.
The tourney drawings were seeded on Dec. 16, and the weigh-ins and tournament began on Dec. 17 (in amateur/Olympic boxing, the weigh-ins commence on the day of your competitions unlike professional boxing or MMA).
The entire eighth floor of the Le Westin hotel, was dedicated to the weigh-ins and later in the morning, the official warm-up floor for the provincial teams. The warm-ups consisted of stretching and light mitt work. Our coaching staff provided further direction on what to expect from the opening bell and how to start there bouts, in terms of tempo, what judges would be looking for, some strategic advice and how to maintain control of their bouts.
At around 1 p.m. ET, all of the athletes and coaching staff members broke off for a rest period. Some went back to their hotel rooms, but I stepped out to explore the city.
My favourite spot was walking and exploring the streets of Old Montreal, Notre Dame and the old cobble stone streets near the lakefront. Exploring the old store fronts and later in the evenings with the staff. Going for a late team dinner with drinks to reflect on the day events and matches, discussing our plans and bouts that were ahead of us for the next day.
So on Day One of competition, one ring was set up in the ballroom on the 11th floor with windows wrapped around looking down onto downtown Montreal, eleven stories high above the city street.
The bouts started at 6 p.m. ET. The cards consisted between 19 to 23 bouts on each card from Dec. 17 – Dec. 20. Inside one Olympic 20 X 20 sized ring containing two Canadian athletes for three rounds, each three minutes long for Olympic level boxing, competing for the “A” position to represent Canada in the world tournaments leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The athletes get one minute of rest in between each round. Going to their respective blue or red corner with either their personal coach along with one or two of the provincial coaching staff members, for additional direction going into the round of battle. In Canadian boxing, the “A” position means you are the top athlete for your weight class, entailing grant, funding, or “carded”status, meaning you are receiving money to train and travel for national or international competition. I have had a few athletes over recent years who have been on the “B” squad, which means the athlete and Coach pays for everything out of their own pocket instead for national and International competition.
The “A” position is the obvious position the athlete or coach is aiming for to get funding, and also, better opportunities to develop.
Things like competing against better competition so your athlete develops better and quicker, which scores more points with the AIBA system due to more and more quality International bouts. This is what an athlete needs to be the best in the world.
The Olympic Weight Classes – Established by IOC (International Olympic Committee:
Men’s Weight Category Women’s Weight Category
52kg 48 – 51kg
57kg 54 – 57kg
63kg 57 – 60kg
69kg 64 – 69kg
81kg 69 – 75kg
The late Dec. 17th draw would set up an exciting Dec. 18 evening of Olympic-style boxing. Province against province. The best of Canada’s boxers facing off with national team spots on the line.
Then there were the Thursday semi-finals and Friday evening finals, which also were action-packed boxing cards with some upsets thrown into the mix. Such as Justin Parina in the 52kg division, who defeated my boxer Jack Hemmings in a tight neck-and-neck battle between two Toronto boys. However, it was Parina who went onto the finals to match up against the talented Philllip Matumbo of the national team, beating Matumbo and stealing the national team champion position to advance onto the “A” position with the Canadian Olympic Team!
I was so proud of Parina for such a big boxing moment in his career. Funny enough, his personal coach, Socrates Celestial is a good friend of mine and my fellow Le Westin hotel “roomie” while in Montreal.
Eric Basran of the national team dominated the 57kg division. He is truly a boxing talent for Canada. Basran won gold in the tournament after his commanding victory over Leo Kamara from London, Ontario. Kamara is a talented boxer himself, but Basran is and remains the 57kg champion.
Aaron Huggins of Toronto beat the current national champion Christophe Bernier in a 2-3 score. This resulted in Huggins advancing and representing in the 91+kg (Super Heavyweight) category.
Jaquan Carty of Toronto (Team Ontario) beat Cedrick Belony of Quebec (Team Quebec) in a decisive 4-1 victory. Carty won in his first national level tournament. Impressive. He advanced as the 75kg Champion, representing Team Ontario. Carty was also named “Best boxer of the tournament.”
John Michael Bianco of Team Ontario also came up big with another win for Ontario at the 81kg weigh class in 5-0 victory to become the 81kg champion!
2020 Olympic Team Qualifiers results:
Men’s Gold Medalists *(NT) means National Team member. (ON) – Team Ontario
52kg – Justin Parina (ON)
57kg – Eric Basran (NT)
63kg – Luis Santana (NT)
75kg – Jaquan Carry (ON)
81kg – John Michael Bianco (ON)
91kg – Bryan Colwell (NT)
91+kg – Aaron Huggins (ON)
Female Gold Medalists
51kg – Mandy Bujold (ON)
57kg – Caroline Veyre (NT)
60kg – Irene Fiolek (NT)
69kg – Myriam D’s Silva (NT)
75kg – Melinda Watpool (ON)
Ontario Silver Medalists
57kg – Leo Kamara
63kg – Spencer Wilcox
81kg – Mo Zawadi
91kg – Satwinder (Sunny) Thind
Ontario Bronze Medalists
52kg – Jack Hemmings
60kg – Sara Buzcek
63kg – James Hughes
69 kg – Nikita Abbott
91kg – Marvin Ude
In the end, after five days in Montreal, Team Ontario came away with six gold medals, four silver medals and four bronze medals.
It was an honour for me representing my province, on the Team Ontario provincial coaching staff. I want to thank Boxing Ontario for selecting me. Also, head coach Socrates Celestial, coaches Rick Cadilha, Rey Morales, and Team Manager Kaitlyn Clark for a memorable week in Montreal and Boxing Canada, for hosting such an Olympic level event.
Some final thoughts.
Ontario is a growing amateur boxing and combat sports province. We have so much talent.
Support the fighters, coaches and clubs as we are all building heroes.