Meandro makes good at nationals
by Randy Pascal
A much more focused Marissa Meandro was looking for a reprieve from her experience at nationals from one year ago as she travelled to
Halifax last month for the Karate Canada National Championships.
She earned that, and then some, capturing gold in her own age category, and posting an impressive third place finish in the Senior Women's
division. The placings allowed the long-time member of the Benoit's Martial Arts studio to garner a spot on the Team Canada junior and senior roster for the
"I was becoming distracted, in grade 10, with all of the things that teenager life has to offer," she confessed. "I got too comfortable. I stepped up
my game a lot this year, becoming way more focused."
"I set a plan and didn't let anything distract me. And I worked really, really hard, just like everyone else there. It was a good day." While the gold
medal performance against her peer group was something that Meandro had accomplished before, the chance to compete for the first time in the Open bracket,
now that she has reached her 16th birthday, proved a tremendous source of pride.
"The women have way more experience than any of us, they've gone to international tournaments," said the St Benedict Catholic Secondary School
senior. "They've been around for some time, but they've still got it. They've already grown as an athlete and a person through their improvement."
"A lot of people my age or younger haven't figured that out just yet. I think I've matured a lot over the past couple of years, taking from all of my
experiences." On the mat, some of her learnings have translated to the move, in recent years, to the "Shito-Ryu" style of katas, only using her more
traditional training in "Goju-Ryu" about 5% of the time in competition.
"I'm allowed to do either, as long as it meets the standard of what the judges are looking for," she explained. "The judges like to see flashy and
really cool katas - quick transitions, lots of speed, maybe 360 jumps, people standing on one leg and doing a really fast movement."
Meandro was joined in Nova Scotia by Benoit teammate Connor DiSalle, the 13 year-old making his second trip to nationals and placing 5th in his
division. "I feel like he has gotten a lot more confident and has really grown and improved as an athlete," said Meandro. "He's very mature for his age."
"Going to nationals is a huge thing, especially for a younger athlete." Currently just over a year away from high-school graduation, Meandro has reached
the point where she must contemplate how best to balance her future academics with her love of martial arts that has almost always been at the core of her
"I know it's going to be a huge challenge competing as a senior athlete," she said. "I want to keep doing this as long as I possibly can." For now, she
will continue to train locally with Shihan Don Benoit and Sensei Ian Boyne, as well as with her Ontario teammates in Toronto, while preparing
for an upcoming event in Croatia in July.