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Ecuador karate champ chooses UTSC to study and finds he can train here too

First-year student Andres Jaramillo was a karate champion in his home country of Ecuador. He came to UTSC because of its reputation, but discovered he could train at the top facilities in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Andres Jaramillo’s 5,000-km journey from full-time professional athlete to full-time scholar has brought him to a new home: the University of Toronto Scarborough.

The 19-year-old karate competitor from Quito, Ecuador left behind family, friends and a promising career in international competition to begin a new chapter in his life as an international student in UTSC’s Management program.

What was the allure of UTSC?

“Well of course it has a really good reputation around the world,” he says. “I also heard pretty good things about Canada itself. So I thought I would give it a try.”

A decided side-benefit, he says, is the opportunity to train at UTSC’s new state-of-the art Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) that has been built for the 2015 Pan American/Parapan Games.

Jaramillo knew the centre was being built when he applied to UTSC, but he was stunned at what he saw when he toured the Centre upon his arrival.

“To be honest, those facilities are amazing compared to any facility I’ve been to,” he says. “They have better standards than many national teams, for example. And to have that just minutes away, that’s pretty cool.”

Jaramillo has been Ecuador’s national karate champion for three of the last four years. Paid to train and compete, he recorded several impressive results in international competition, often against competitors much older than himself.

There was a possibility he would be sent by Ecuador to the world senior championships this fall, but instead, he opted to accept an offer from UTSC to study full-time. He plans to slot training into his schedule when he can manage.

Scott McRoberts, Director of Athletics and Recreation at UTSC, says Jaramillo will have access to weight-training facilities that are open 365 days a year, from 5 a.m. to midnight. He’ll also be able to take advantage of the track and the Olympic pool for cross-training, and make use of drop-in studio space where he can practice his karate technique.

“High performance athletes such as Andres are making choices to come here because of the research-intensiveness of the University and its academic rigour, but also because of these facilities,” says McRoberts. “So now you can get a U of T education while having the top facilities to train for your sport.”

Jamarillo says he will not be competing in the upcoming Pan Am Games because he is currently not a member of Ecuador’s national team. However, he is keeping open the possibility of competing for U of T in inter-collegiate competition. And he’s not closing the door on future international competition for Ecuador.

But for now, his focus is on his studies. The transition is a bit challenging, he says, especially since he took last year off from school to train and compete. This year, he is taking four bridging courses in preparation for entering the Management undergraduate program next year.

It is also hard being away from his family, his friends on the karate team and his coach Marcello Abril– a world-renowned sensei and head coach of the Ecuador national team.

“It was the most difficult thing in my life because just being focussed on my sport–which was my life–and just leaving it all behind, was really hard for me, he says. “But I was accepted at one of the best universities in the world. I really had planned to study and I didn’t want this opportunity to go away.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough