16-year-old Maria Alvie Dela Cruz of Brampton is a taekwondo poomsae champion, and has the Pan Am gold medals to prove it.
Although Torontonians saw the Pan Am games in the city this summer, Dela Cruz’s Pan Am wins took place in Aguascalientes, Mexico on September 9 and 10.
At the Pan Am Poomsae Championship, she won gold in the Female Junior Individual 3rd Dan division, and bronze in the Female Junior Team division with teammates Alissa Juman and Erika Caldwell.
“Only a select few get to participate in this championship— the first and second in each division in each country,” said Dela Cruz. “I was proud to represent Canada.”
She followed these victories with a bronze in Female Junior Individual division and a gold in the Female Junior Team division at the Pan American Open.
And her successes didn’t end there.
At Centennial College on September 19th, Dela Cruz competed in the senior division of the Ontario Provincial Poomsae Championship, and won gold medals in the Female Senior Individual and Female Senior Team divisions.
She was also proud of the accomplishments of fellow Filipino-Canadian athletes Rhon and Rose Lagran. The brother-sister pair who trained with her at Rhonrose Martial Arts & Fitness won seven medals between them in the provincial and Pan Am competitions.
Taekwondo is a 2000-year-old martial art from Korea which is separated into two styles: sparring, which is the combative type seen in the Summer Olympics and Toronto’s recent Pan Am Games, and poomsae, which has its own competitions.
As a non-contact form of taekwondo, Dela Cruz said that in poomsae, attitude is key. “For poomsae, there is no gear,” she said. “You have to think, you have to be calm, and you can’t be too nervous.”
Poomsae points are not awarded through combat, but through accuracy of movement. “There are patterns to do certain movements and motions,” she said. “It’s like dancing.”
Dela Cruz encourages all parents to enrol their children in taekwondo.
“It teaches discipline, it helps with self-confidence, and it keeps them busy,” she said. “Usually, kids my age would be hanging out on their phones all day, but instead, taekwondo keeps them fit.”
Dela Cruz was very thankful for her parents and sponsors, noting that athletes are expected to pay for their own flight, hotels, uniform, and competition fees.
Her father, Alvin Dela Cruz, was especially grateful for the support of Brampton Dental Care, Treiman Steel Industries Ltd., Pan Daniels, Kathryn Irwin, and the family and friends whose sponsorship enabled her to compete.
“A special thanks to Master Mann and Master Johl for believing and training her,” he added. “Without the help of these people, her journey will never be real.”
Dela Cruz hopes to compete in Peru at the 2016 World Taekwondo Poomsae Championship, calling it “the poomsae version of the Olympics.”
The Grade 12 student of St. Roch Catholic Secondary School currently teaches black belt students at Rhonrose Martial Arts & Fitness, and is hoping to study at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Pharmacy in the future.
She plans on practicing taekwondo even as a university student.
“Hopefully, I’ll keep going for a long time,” said Dela Cruz. “Maybe even for life.”
This article was originally published in The Philippine Reporter on September 25, 2015.