Petite warrior gets big victory

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:23 PM ET

Megan MacKenzie was all warrior in dispatching her competition at the 41st America Karate Association Grand Nationals last weekend in Chicago.

The Londoner's string of successes began with her winning the traditional weapons division for black belt girls 12-13 and ended with her victory over 17-year-old Alabama resident, Ryan Redfoot, which vaulted her to the overall black belt weapons grand championship.

But picking up her prize -- the aptly named Warrior Cup -- presented a new challenge for the karate kid who will become a teen next month.

The cup, you see, is 1.6 metres (five feet) high and weighs in at 27.2 kilograms.

At five-foot-five, she has a slight advantage on the trophy, "but, overall, it looks bigger than me. I couldn't even get it out of the ring without help," MacKenzie said with a laugh.

The Warrior Cup features ornate statuettes and a large, covered bowl atop a rich wooden base. A new version is handmade each year, meaning MacKenzie gets to keep hers forever -- a relief to her parents, Gordie and Darlene, who are spared transporting it back to next year's Grand Nationals, a major stop on the North American Sport Karate Association tour.

MacKenzie, who called the win "her biggest NASKA accomplishment," is only the second Canadian to win the Cup.

The other is fellow Londoner Mike Bernardo, her Sensei -- teacher -- at the Bernardo Karate Academy.

"He was so excited," MacKenzie said of Bernardo's reaction. "He wanted to know every detail, who I went up against, what form (traditional, extreme or creative) they used, what form I used."

Following her opening victory in girls' 12-13 traditional weapons, MacKenzie's path to the Warrior Cup, included winning the girls' traditional weapons grand championship by defeating champs in the nine-and-under and 10-11 traditional weapons divisions, then emerging as the grand champion among boys and girls through age 13 in traditional, creative and extreme weapons.

That put her up against Redfoot, the cream of the crop in the 14-17-year-old set.

The two didn't actually meet in hand-to-hand combat.

MacKenzie and Redfoot were judged separately on their traditional weapons forms. Redfoot was outstanding, but MacKenzie was better, winning the the Warrior Cup 5-2 and triggering an eruption of cheers from an appreciative crowd.

While MacKenzie is "very happy" with her win, she'll need to refocus on her next competitions -- the World Karate Association world championships, tomorrow through Thursday, in Niagara Falls, followed by the NASKA Pan Am championships in Miami.


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