It was old home week once again at Armie Rizzo’s Ontario Provincial Open at the Hamilton Convention Center February 26, as over 1,000 competitors from across Ontario, Quebec and the United States gathered for what has become a true tradition in martial arts.
For nearly 30 years the Ontario Provincial Open has drawn the finest martial artists in the country from all styles, all circuits and all levels. How can you tell a tournament has a longstanding tradition? Check out the senior divisions. If they have only a few competitors, chances are it’s a new event. But at the Ontario Provincial Open the senior divisions comprise some of the largest of the tournament. That’s because year after year these competitors return to an event they’ve grown with. It’s a tournament where “old school” stands right along side the new kids, and is appreciated by all. Diliberto’s accomplishments prove that.
But this year the Ontario Provincial Open was just as much a showcase for young talent. London’s Megan Mackenzie won her second junior forms grand in a row. Quite an accomplishment because this is only her second year as a black belt. Clearly she’s got an exciting future ahead of her.
Tammy Bernardo of London first defeated Michelle Maizis of Stayner then edged out Alisha Williams 5-4 to take the women’s fighting grand.
Diliberto wasn’t the only impressive forms competitor at the OPO. Zen of Toronto’s Team Ryouko had heads turning in the men’s black belt open forms division, as did Zack George in the soft style/Chinese division.
By afternoon the fighting took center stage. Ottawa’s Robbie Lavoie, one of the best fighters in the country took on Pak Chan to get to the finals in the men’s lightweight division. Once there he disposed of Hamilton’s Steve Kawamura to win the division. Proving he’s still got it, Steve Ramkalawan won the men’s 30-39 fighting division.
As usual, the men’s middleweight division seemed to have the strongest group of fighters. Jason Brown defeated London’s Justin Eastwood in an early round. Luke Cummins squeaked by Gilles Doiron 5-4. Cummins and Brown then squared off in the final round in what started as a close match tied 3-3. Then Brown launched a two-point hook kick to take the division.
In the fighting grand, heavyweight winner Trevor Nash defeated Ottawa’s Jamie Jeanvenne 5-0, though afterward Jeanvenne insisted he scored a point. “C’mon,” he said, “I’m telling you I got one point. Please tell them I scored at least one point. Just one.” Robbie Lavoie faced Jason Brown and suffered a crushing loss 5-3 thanks to a two-point kick from Brown as Lavoie started to duck out of bounds. Nash then bowed out to his teammate and student Shane Baker, the tournament’s defending grand champion, setting up a Baker/Brown showdown.
Brown came out with both barrels blazing and didn’t give Baker the chance to start a game plan. Though usually an extremely fast and aggressive fighter, Baker couldn’t get past Brown’s defense. Brown took control and finished the match ahead 5-1.
Besides the championships, awards for best supporting clubs were also given out. The top five supporting schools were (in order): Bernardo Karate, United Family Martial Arts (Queenston), Howards Self Defence, YMCA of Hamilton, and Desantos Martial Arts. Congratulations to those clubs for their fine support.
It’s no wonder people return to Armie Rizzo’s Ontario Provincial Open. With great competition, lots of old (and new) friends, it’s the kind of event that builds memories. And legacies.