Pan Am Games a learning experience for South Okanagan teens

Summerland's Claire Boothe and Penticton's Sukhresh Kaloty compete in Junior Pan Am Games for karate.

Competing in the Junior Pan Am Games proved to be an entirely different level for Claire Boothe and Sukhresh Kaloty.

The members of Summerland’s Taneda Karate Dojo qualified for the international competition in Cancun, Mexico Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 after competing in the Canadian national championship in March. Boothe is the reigning Canadian champion in the girls 16/17-year-old -48-kilogram sparring division. They also represented Canada in the Junior Olympics and U.S. Open. Boothe won silver in the Junior Olympics and bronze at the open. Kaloty competes in the 16/17-year-old, 68-kg sparring division.

Both lost their only match in the Pan Am Games, Boothe 4-0 to Amy McNeill, while Kaloty, who couldn’t be reached for comment, by the same score.

“I think they did great,” said coach Mike Ditson, also the coach of Zone 2 Okanagan and Team B.C. “The Pan Americans is a fairly high level of competition. Maybe higher than we expected before we got there.”

Boothe, now studying kinesiology at the University of British Columbia, said it wasn’t her best tournament adding that the pressure of a different atmosphere got to her. McNeill was a three-time Pan Am medalist, who went on to earn a bronze medal. She had lost to Boothe before.

“These levels are just so much stronger than anyone from Canada or the U.S.,” said Boothe, impressed with the atmosphere. “It was a really cool experience.”

What she cherished was the unity of Team Canada and being around the athletes from other provinces.

“There is usually quite a bit of rivalry between the provinces,” she added. “It was pretty surreal. Instead of having our dojo crests, we had a Canada flag on our gi.  Being able to go in there and know that you are one of the best in the country and you have the honour to represent your country is, I can’t even describe the feeling.”

Boothe would like to return but her studies will prevent her from training like she used to.

Ditson said that Boothe is close to being successful at the Pan Am level.

As for Kaloty, who is studying first-year pharmacy at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, Ditson said he fought fantastic in a tough matchup against a Venezuelan.

“In the Pan American level for karate, Venezuela is the No. 1 country,” he said. “We asked him to fight it a very specific way. It’s a two-minute match and he fought pretty perfect for one minute, 53 seconds. One mistake with seven seconds to go kind of cost him the fight. He did really well.”

Ditson said they gained knowledge of what the competition is like. Now they know what to improve on for a return, which Ditson said it will be easier for Boothe being in a smaller division.

Ditson said that process begins in a few weeks starting with the zone level, then provincials (November), then Team B.C. selections in January. National championships are in March.