Everything he’d worked for had led up to that one moment.
When Cole Abou-Tibbett, 17, won gold in his junior male second degree black belt under 62 kilogram division at the Taekwon-Do Nationals in Regina last November, he knew it had all been worth it.
“I’m not sure some people understand when I tell them what that is but that [win] meant I was the number one fighter in my weight class in Canada.
“So I definitely had a feeling that all the training I’d done to this point had been like a prelude for what was to come.”
Winning gold also meant Cole qualified to represent Canada at the International Taekown-Do Federation’s world championships (May 27 to 31) in Jesolo, Italy.
His drive to becoming a champion in his sport really came, he says, after competing at the Nationals in Quebec in 2013.
“I didn’t place – and that gave me the motivation I needed to win the next one.”
Cole trains at the Prince George Family TaeKown-Do centre.
He credits coach and trainer Jordan Boudreau as a big reason why he’s won medals at more than two dozen tournaments, and why he felt totally prepared to take on the Nationals in Regina this year.
“My coach has always been there for me. He pushed me to train harder and work harder and to be the best that I could be. At the Worlds, I will going up against the best in the world – fighters from Poland, Russia, Italy, the U.S. and the U.K. – but I’m ready to take them on.”
The daily challenge leading up to the big event will be to “continue to improve my technique, to practice and to perfect it,” he says.
He takes very seriously the oath and tenets of Taekwon-Do which include being disciplined and respectful.
“That means inside and outside of the sport. Your conduct [in both places] is a really huge part of all this,” says Cole, who earned his black belt in 2013.
Cole’s story is an inspiration for young people everywhere, says his staunch supporter, Carol Joy Green.
“My son is a friend of his. I think Cole is a marvellous human. He’s worked so hard and for so long and now, he’s so close to achieving his goal. I want to see him live his dream.
“So I set up a gofundme page for him to help raise money for his trip to Italy to cover expenses and accommodation because his mom, Erika, is travelling with him.”
Asked by Green if he expects to place at the world competitions, Cole smiles confidently.
“I expect to win.”
The Taekwon-Do champ leaves for Italy the day after his high school graduation from Cedars Christian School.
“I’m not going to miss that, that’s for sure,” he said.
He will have some familiar company in Italy. Boudreau is also headed to the Worlds, after qualifying in his adults class, and a third Prince George contender, Daniel Watt, will be there competing in the hyperweight class.
Cole is looking forward to the “opportunity of a lifetime.” It’s hard for him to remember when Taekwon-Do was not part of his daily life.
“I was about eight years old and my mother put me into Taekwan-Do classes as a way, I think, for me to blow off steam. But almost as soon as I’d started doing it, I was addicted to it and my coach saw potential in me.”
People may remember a much younger Cole, break dancing on stage at the Playhouse for P.G.’s Got Talent Show years ago. His energetic performance showcased not just his outstanding athletic ability but his overall artistic flair.
And in Taekwon-Do he meshes the two talents.
Cole is also proud, he said, to represent his Kaska Dene First Nation but he wants to be a role model for other First Nations youth and, indeed, for young athletes in all communities.
“We may all have different cultures and heritages but but we are all one people. I enjoy learning about my own heritage and taking part in cultural activites. In the summer I try to live off the land by fishing, hunting and trapping on my family’s traditional trap lines.”
When he returns from competing at the Worlds, Cole says he’ll face his biggest challenge to date.
“I’ll be turning 18 this year so I’ll be competing as an adult, fighting men. So that’s the next part of my challenge.”
As well as support from First Nations groups, Cole has the support of his family friends and fellow students at Cedars Christian School. Indeed, the entire school has gotten behind him to help him get to Italy so he can compete, says Green.
“The students shared his story on Facebook and they held a hot dog sale to raise funds for him. First the principal put in a large sum of money, then the teachers, receptionists and other staff members joined in. The [Kaska Dene First Nation] band put in money so today (Wednesday) we reached our initial goal of $4,900 which covers Cole’s minimum expenses.”
Green says the Facebook page will stay open so people who want to donate money for additional expenses related to his training and travel can do so at www.gofundme.com/coletoworlds.