Karate tour drawing top competitors

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

The London and area's first World Sport Karate Federation tour stop kicks into action tonight at the London Convention Centre.

"It's a North American tour event and the only one of seven to be held in Canada," said Michael Bernardo of the host Michael Bernardo Karate Schools.

London was selected because the London-Hamilton area is a hotbed of karate in Canada, Bernardo said. "It's a tough region for the Americans to come up to compete in."

The event will attract between 750 and 1,000 competitors, with about 200 from London and area. Participants can register at the door.

"There's competitors coming from California, Arizona and Texas, so you know if they're coming that far, they must be pretty good," Bernardo said. "We're pretty excited about it."

At the top level, two London women could again be squaring off for top honours.

In the last two tour events, Kate Albrecht and Claire Cocozza have met in the finals. They train together.

On the black belt men's side, Russ Taylor of London is a No. 1 lightweight fighter and someone to watch, Bernardo said.

The event has 200 divisions that cover male, female, beginners, intermediates, advanced and black belts. There's a division for those six and under and for those 45 and over.

Mainly the tour is for the black belt competitors, Bernardo said, and the local fighters use the tour stop as a test of their skills. There'll be about 25 local black belt competitors.

Five rings will be in action tonight and 18 will be used tomorrow.

WORLD SPORT KARATE FEDERATION EVENT

When: Tonight and tomorrow; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and eliminations; finals start at 8 p.m.

Where: London Convention Centre

Admission: $20 for all events; $10 adult and $5 children for today or tomorrow during the day


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