Lando Ball in Smithers in late June. (Submitted photo)

Tahltan fighter from Telkwa wins provincial award

Lando Ball recognized for his commitment to and accomplishments in karate and for community service

A 13-year-old Tahltan martial artist who lives in Telkwa keeps on racking up accolades.

Lando Ball, who won bronze in Karate point fighting at the Kickboxing and Karate Union (WKU) World Championships last fall in Europe, is now the recipient of a Premier’s Award for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sports.

Lando was one of 36 young athletes chosen for a regional award at the end of 2019. Out of those, 10 were announced for the provincial honour in late June. It came with a $500 scholarship and inclusion in the B.C. Hall of Fame for one year.

“I think that’s well-deserved for his commitment and his input in his sport and I think he should be a role model for many, many teenagers and especially for the Indigenous community, that’s very, very important,” said Lando’s kiyoshi (expert teacher) Marwan Abu Khadra.

READ MORE: Smithers fighter wins bronze at karate worlds

The awards were originally scheduled to be handed out at a ceremony in Kamloops in March, but that was promptly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A video intended to introduce the young fighter at the ceremony was posted to YouTube June 18.

“It’s hard to believe Lando only started karate three years ago because he’s already won a gold at provincials and a gold at nationals,” the narrator intones.

He has made his parents very proud.

“He found a way to compete at a world level in a very short time,” said Ann Ball, Lando’s mother. “His dedication and commitment are above any I have ever seen and we commend him for all of his efforts.”

In fact, karate changed his life completely, Ann said.

Prior to finding the sport, Lando was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and struggled to keep up in school. But the family did not want to treat the condition with drugs.

READ MORE: Smithers dojo captures quadruple gold at nationals

“Lando’s focus on his karate and extreme commitment, and with all-natural supplements, has assisted him in controlling his ADHD,” Ann said.

He now not only excels in karate, but also in school.

“In fact, when Lando would require focus, his teachers have been informed that having him go outside and do a couple of his katas (sets of detailed movements) – which require immense focus and memory – [will] bring him back to a balance.”

Lando’s success in both competition and in dealing with his condition has also allowed him to become a mentor to other Tahltan youth.

Prior to COVID, he did a tour of schools in the northern Tahltan communities of Iskut, Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek with Ann, Abu Khadra and another karate student.

The events included a panel discussion on overcoming challenges, a half-hour workout with students and staff (as well as RCMP in Telegraph Creek) and a two-minute sparring session.

Lando’s message to the kids is simple, but powerful.

“No matter how hard life can be sometimes, I just want you all to know to believe in yourself because life can be really tough on you at moments,” he said.

Lando’s parents are also proud of the way he supports the family, and in particular his 75-year-old grandmother Marge Fraser, as well as the Tahltan Nation at large.

“Lando comes north with me and helps put up all of our fish (for the winter) and is quite the fisherman,” Ann said. “He knows how to set the net and can do a pull of the net by himself. Last year, he packed 13 sockeye up the extremely steep hill, without stopping, in the pack by himself.”

This year he is participating in a project being conducted in Tahltan territory to get fish out to members who have been asked not to return due to COVID.

He also regularly participates in cultural and literacy camps within the territory.

While there are no competitions on the horizon for the foreseeable future, Lando continues to train as if there were. During the early phases of B.C.’s COVID response, he participated in online training sessions and since gyms have been allowed to reopen, he has been back in the Shogun Dojo in Smithers.

“He’s training 110 per cent,” Abu Khadra said. “Him and his friend basically, they train every day.”

Lando is still hoping some version of the Canadian nationals will be held and that the world championships — which had been scheduled for Quebec City in October — will go ahead, but recognizes it is a slim hope.

In any event, he can’t wait to get back into competition.

He also wants to eventually have his own dojo, he previously told The Interior News.

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