1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (1 RCR) Corporal Konstantinos “Gus” Athanasopoulos brought home three Taekwon-Do medals from the 2017 International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) Pan-American Championships. He placed second in sparring, second in patterns and third in power breaking. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
1 RCR Corporal earns three medals at Pan-Am Taekwon-Do Championships
By: Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017
Corporal Konstantinos “Gus” Athanasopoulos has taken his sparring skills to the next level by going to the 2017 International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) Pan-American Championships.
This 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (1 RCR) soldier not only participated in this July 28-30 international tournament, he placed second in sparring, second in patterns and third in power breaking.
“It sure was an experience of a lifetime and the new friends I made for life, I will never forget,” said Athanasopoulos.
About ten different countries were represented at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, each athlete trying to prove their physical dominance and earn medals. Athanasopoulos made Canada proud by achieving incredible top scores and winning three medals.
At 45, he never expected to qualify for Pan-Am. Nevertheless, he was excited at the chance to prove himself on the mat. The fact that he did so well was a bonus as it qualifies him to compete at the world-level next year in Argentina.
“It is something that I would definitely love to do,” he said.
Taekwon-Do has been a part of Athanasopoulos’ life for a long time.
He first started when he was 12-years-old, but finished competing at 19. For several decades after, he didn’t do the sport officially. It was only when he joined the Canadian Armed Forces and found out there was a local club that he returned to the sport.
“I had a little bit of a struggle,” he admitted.
“It was a little bit of a culture shock once again,” he added, pointing out he only restarted training four years ago.
Pan-Am is the first major international championships that he has participated in. He did have some clue that he would be so successful as he went to the nationals last year and placed second in sparring.
“That’s not bad for getting back into it,” he said.
He doesn’t do it for medals, however.
To him, Taekwon-Do is more than just fighting. It teaches discipline, courtesy, self-control, integrity and perseverance. It can be taught to anyone willing to learn these concepts.
He has used these positive traits in his work life with the military. As such, he has proven himself with his chain of command and has received their full support to compete when possible.
Yet his main supporters are his family; Athanasopoulos said his wife had initially assumed he was merely going to go back to the sport to get his black belt. She had no idea that it would awaken a hidden passion and talent, and when she realized how important it was for him to compete, she gave him her full support.
“I’m ecstatic to have that much support,” he said.