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Hometown Heroes: Therien – more than a martial arts studio!

By City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner Mathieu Fleury

Absolutely in love with the sport, a young Jiu-Jitsu fighter saw the potential in opening up a gym – to share his passion with the rest of the community.

More than 50 years later – 53 to be exact – John Therien finds himself celebrating his long-term love affair with the sport.

John Therien and Rideau-Vanier City Councillor Mathieu Fleury.

“You do it because you love to,” he said. “You follow your destiny.”

‘For those years – Therien moved from fighter to trainer. And this, this is where he shone.

He trained world champions. Multiple.

If you could count how many people with whom he shared the love of the sport, helped them grow to open their own gyms or become promoters of the sport themselves – your head would spin.

And you would get lost in an international world of colleagues, friends and family who all learned one way or another under this man.

“I knew I wouldn’t be a world champion, so I trained them,” he said.

Born in Vanier, Therien learned the sport at the local community centre. He achieved his black belt in 1968 at 19, opening his school a few years later.

Over the years, Therien has been showered with accolades and awards – but here is where one stands out for this man. Therien said he felt honoured to be inducted into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame on March 29, and that it truly shows all his hard work has paid off.

Initially meant to take place in May 2020, then in November 2020, the event turned virtual as many have these days. Although Therien loves a good event, with people, laughter and hugs, he said it remained a very proud moment, despite the virtual pivot.

He added he is looking forward to the day he can take his grandchildren to see his name on the Hall of Fame wall at City Hall.

“It’s more important to me to show them that if you work hard, look what you can achieve,” Therien said. “I can’t be the best at everything, but I can be the best at some things – and this is one.”

A proud Papi, Therien said now he finds it is his grandchildren, and the young men and women he instructs (most four times younger than him) who inspire him to keep going, keep training and keep motivating.

“It’s been a hell of a ride, but I am not done,” he underlines. “I am still going.”

A long-time community supporter for his home neighbourhood and his City, Therien said he does not let his age – or something like a pandemic – stop him from promoting his sport, which has expanded to include kickboxing over the years.

Therien will host a 24-hour Martial Arts event online in May, including coaches and fighters from around the world. With 96 classes, Therien said it would be a message to let everyone know these schools are here, and they are fighting to survive the pandemic.

“This is to raise hope in Martial Arts,” he noted. “To let everyone know: you are not alone, stay alive, and we are coming back.”

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