The 15-year old resumes karate career following serious ankle injury
Thursday, September 12, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - Kenzie Kilmer could have quit.
No one would have questioned a decision to step away, considering the condition of her ankle and the early prognosis from medical professionals.
No one expect, Kilmer herself.
Possessing a passion so strong for martial arts, not even an unusual ankle injury was going to prevent Kilmer from returning to competition.
"It helps me in any area of my life," the 15-year old from St. Thomas said. "I've met such great people through this. It's what makes me happy. I knew it was something worth fighting for."
Through her perseverance and determination, Kilmer overcame the injury and earlier this year earned a spot with Team Canada at the World Karate Commission (WKC) championships, this November, in Niagara Falls, New York.
At the WKC Canadian championships, in Gatineau, Quebec, in May, Kilmer won gold in continuous sparring, and silver in both points sparring and team kata, in the under 60-kilograms 13-14 year old girls division.
The event featured 10,000 participants in various divisions, making it WKC's largest ever Canadian championship.
"I was very overwhelmed," said Kilmer, a Grade 10 student at Parkside Collegiate Institute. "I was beyond happy with my results and proud of myself. I was never felt more ready to train and put the work in for worlds this year."
It was different emotions a year ago when Kilmer had to withdraw from Worlds, losing an opportunity to travel to Portugal, due to a second injury to her right ankle.
Her initial setback occurred two years ago during a competition, when she took an elbow to the ankle, forcing the arch and joint to collapse. The then 13 year old recovered enough to compete at Worlds and win the 11-12-year old girls under-50 kilogram class.
Seemingly embarrassed, Kilmer briefly hesitates, before explaining how she re-injured her ankle.
"I fell off a bed and 12 bones fell out of place in my right foot," said Kilmer.
This time the injury was more serious and the put her martial arts career in jeopardy.
"I saw the best doctors in Ontario. For awhile no could find out what was wrong. I had ultra sounds and MRIs. Some of them told me I could never do sports again," said Kilmer, with some emotion in her voice. "My ankle has had a lot of different injuries that are very uncommon and unique, so there wasn't a text book diagnosis that they could give me. It took very special people to help me back to health."
Kilmer found "these amazing people" to be osteopath Rebecca Gilchrist and wellness trainer Angie Mailhout, a movement and biomechanics specialist.
"They helped me back to where I was," said Kilmer. "I was so thrilled that I got the opportunity to try out for worlds again, because for a bit there I thought that was it."
Kilmer had a nine week healing period when she admits she wasn't herself and since the teen couldn't be on her feet, "I did ab workouts like crazy." Kilmer also worked with bands to strengthen her legs and core muscles.
Upon receiving the OK from her wellness trainer, Kenzie was back preparing for Nationals with coach Mark Deleemans and sensei Marylynn Okkerse, at the Kilmer family home or the St. Thomas YMCA, four to five times a week.
One test on her ankle was a few jogs up the St. George Street hill near Athletic Park, an incline that can tire even seasoned runners.
When Nationals rolled around, Kilmer did her best to keep her mind off her ankle, not about to let opponents take advantage of any tentative emotion during the fights.
"I wasn't nervous at all. I was going to do the best that I could and I wasn't going to give anything away easy. I was going to make them (opponents) fight for it," Kilmer said. "My ankle ended up holding up really well. It was really good for me."
In taking gold in continuous sparring, Kilmer won all of her fights by unanimous decision.
A week following Nationals, Kilmer earned her black belt. As the new school year begins, Kilmer is ready to return to playing basketball and volleyball and go out for rugby next spring.
"I feel this is my redemption year and I'm ready to fight for a world title again," Kilmer said. "This year will be a lot harder. This is going to be the biggest worlds ever. I'm definitely going to have to fight a lot harder, if I want to win the title."
Perhaps with Kilmer already overcoming such a challenging ordeal, it may be her opponents who have to fight a lot harder.