Adam Tomlinson demonstrates his taekwondo technique before about 500 students at the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Pan Am Celebration Day. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Faith helps martial artist succeed on international stage

  • March 15, 2015

TORONTO - Having an opportunity to expose Catholic students to the combinination of taekwondo and faith leaves Adam Tomlinson less concerned about securing a spot on Team Canada for this summer’s Pan Am Games.

“I won’t feel disappointed if I make the team or not (because) ... what is important is teaching the kids and getting sport out there,” said the legal studies student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ont.

“This is satisfactory enough. There are many years ahead for me to compete and go to Pan Am Games and ... this is an excellent opportunity to keep me inspired, keep me focused and keep me training.” 

On Feb. 25 Tomlinson and five others from A.T. Martial Arts left their home turf of Whitby, Ont., to take part in the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Pan Am Celebration Day at Downsview Park. The Pan Ams will be taking place in and around Toronto July 7 to 26.

About 500 students and educators gathered inside The Hangar to hear from the athletes. Among those who spoke about their sport were rhythmic gymnast Alex Orlando, a three-time Pan Am gold medallist and 2008 Olympian, boxer Mary Spencer, Pan Am gold medallist and 2012 Olympian, and Tomlinson, a gold medallist from the junior Pan Am Games. 

Tomlinson said the key to his success so far is the value of faith learned as a Catholic high school student. 

“I am grateful and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to have gone to a  Catholic school because through Grade 9 to Grade 12, with the help of my teachers and peers, I’ve learned the value of having faith,” he said. “The value of faith that I learned as an athlete and as a student is that when things get tough and you start to think ‘why am I doing this?’ ... faith is what helps you have a vision on the goal.”

Tomlinson told the students that he was once in their shoes.

“When I was in Grade 8, like many of you guys right now, I realized that in the next four years of my life there is going to be some serious transition and change that will determine who I will be when I graduate and what I will be doing with my life,” said the graduate of Fr. Leo J. Austin Catholic Secondary School in Whitby.

“A lot of you guys might think that is a daunting thought but the reality of the matter is when you make a decision at a young age it will affect you in the long term. So when I was in Grade 8 I realized that I wanted to be the best that I can be in taekwondo and I wanted to see how far I could go.” 

Over the next three years Tomlinson, 18, kicked and punched through the ranks, securing his first national championship in Grade 11. 

“That was a huge moment in my life because I realized that I have the ability to become successful in something if I focus on it,” he said. “(And) when I lost in tournaments I realized that I am going to stay faithful. That is what helped me be successful.” 

The following year brought Tomlinson into international competition at the 2013 Pan Am Jr. Games held in Mexico.  

“That was my first year ever leaving the country to participate in a tournament,” he said. “Through faith and dedication I ended up winning a gold medal in the junior championships. This accomplishment was truly indescribable to me, it was a testament to my faith.” 

Tomlinson went on to capture a gold medal the following year at the Pan Am championships while representing Canada’s senior team.

Tomlinson’s message on faith resonated with his audience. Trenedee Watson, a Grade 10 student from Francis Libermann Catholic High School in Toronto, said she takes her faith with her in training and competion.

“My faith motivates me to do everything,” said the 15-year-old track and field athlete. “Even how I train and I work with others, my teammates, my faith is a big part of it. It motivates me and it shows me that my struggles are not as bad as most peoples.”

Watson also hopes to be part of the 2015 Pan Am Games, though not on the track. She’s applied to work at the concession stands at the games as well as serve as a volunteer.

Now she is anxiously playing the waiting game along with a seemingly much calmer Tomlinson. 

He will find out this month whether or not he will represent Canada as an athlete. As someone who has been through the selection process before, Tomlinson said the best thing to do right now is “stay faithful.”

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