West Vancouver karate duo set to represent B.C. for the first time at the Canada Winter Games

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Two West Vancouver high schoolers are gearing up to take on the country’s best karate athletes at the Canada Winter Games in P.E.I.

Julian Hassan and Helena Andres will be among the first batch of Canadians to compete in karate at the annual tournament.

“It’s the first year that karate has been introduced, and I’m super excited, and I don’t know what to expect,” said Hassan inside his dojo in West Vancouver.

Hassan will compete against the country’s best 16- and 17-year-olds in the 68-kilogram weight class. Andres will compete in the 53-kilogram weight class in the same age group.

Team BC includes three boys and three girls and will compete against each province and territory’s best six fighters in those weight classes.

“I’m hoping to do my best; a medal would be nice, but since this is such a big event, I shouldn’t expect too much of myself,” said Andres.

Andres and Hassan qualified for the two-week tournament in December when they finished first in their weight classes at the Canada Open in Richmond.

Their coach, sensei Matt Bickel, said that they have put in the training. He believes they should be medal favourites.

“They’re both special athletes, and they’re both strong. They’re good to go,” said Bickel. “The sky’s the limit for them; they can achieve whatever they work hard for.”

The Canada Winter Games officially kicked off on Saturday with an opening ceremony with guest speakers and singing and dancing performances.

Andres and the other 53-kilogram fighters will compete on Tuesday before Hassan’s weight class takes the mat on Wednesday.

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