After missing a year rehabilitating a broken arm, Campbell River’s Leah Tremain stormed back to the top of the podium in the World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Las Vegas Aug. 22-25.
Tremain was champion in her class in 2016 but overcame greater adversity, faced more opponents and wracked up a greater margin of victory in gaining her second title, in Master 4 Female category, at the 2018 championships.
“It was really intense summer,” Tremain said of her preparation for the Las Vegas tournament. “It required a lot of balancing with work as well.”
This year’s title was the culmination of a long journey over the last two years. Tremain won the event in 2016, broke her arm in 2017 and came back to win in 2018.
She trained twice a day starting in the spring and added in extra work on weights and conditioning which Tremain feels stood her in good stead in the final.
“In my final match, that extra work allowed me to win my match,” Tremain said.
Her first opponent in the semi-final was ranked No. 1 in 2015 and was Vegas champion, Arizona State champion and USBJJF (US Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) American Nationals Bronze winner.
“And I annihilated her,” Tremain said.
She was ahead 9-0 and finished with a bow and arrow choke and her opponent “tapped out.”
“I felt really strong in that match and I had no problem getting ahead in points and then finished with a submission,” Tremain said.
In her final match, she was up against a woman from Langley, B.C. Going into the last two minutes of the match they were tied 2-2.
“I looked up and saw that we were tied 2-2 and she had the advantage and if I didn’t do something quickly, I would lose,” Tremain said.
With 30 seconds left in the match she gave it everything she had to do a “sweep” and put her in a “top mount” position which gave her two points for the sweep as well as four points for being in top mount. Now, all she needed to do was hold on for 10-15 seconds which she was able to do. She finished the match with a score of 8-2, a definitive margin of victory for that level of competition, Tremain said.
Her coach at the Worlds, Don Whitfield, said, “Leah stayed very strong across both her matches. She was able to be dominant while staying in control. In her final match she turned it on when she needed to for the win.”
So she secured the win and gained the podium but she got more than a medal at the awards ceremony which made the moment even more special.
“What was really triumphant and a dream come true was I was awarded my brown belt on the podium,” Tremain said. “I went in as a purple belt and I left the podium as a brown belt.”
Whitfield said, “Leah received her brown belt on the podium because she dominated her competition at the highest level and showed the determination and technique of a true BJJ brown belt!”
Adding to the accomplishment was the fact that after winning in 2016, Tremain was working hard to prepare to defend her title in 2017 but broke her arm in her last week of training for the 2017 worlds.
“That was devastating for me because I worked so hard and was in really good physical condition and ready to go,” Tremain said.
It was difficult to come back from that injury. It took six months and included overcoming the anxiety of returning to the mat after such a “brutal injury.”
Tremain has a top notch team of coaches behind her from her local coach Jodey Ingalls at Pure Martial Arts and Fitness whose own coach, Whitfield, head coach of West Coast Martial Arts, coached Tremain at the World Masters. Ingalls was proud of Tremain’s preparation and performance in a high level competition.
“She trained really hard,” he said. “She stepped it up.”
Also on the team is Rob Biernacki, head instructor and head coach of Island Top Team in Nanaimo where Tremain is a visiting student.
“Leah has made a remarkable commitment to her growth in every aspect of her competition preparation. From a steadfast approach to her diet, to a dedicated strength and conditioning routine, she has been willing to do the extra work it takes outside of BJJ to ensure her body can execute everything her mind can conceptualize,” Biernnacki said. “She has travelled to train with us repeatedly to address both technical and conceptual plateaus…seeing this level of resolve expressed after facing a serious setback just weeks before last year’s tournament, in the form of a broken wrist that prevented her from competing, is inspirational. It speaks volumes about her passion to compete and achieve her best self that such a potentially devastating roadblock only motivated her to come back stronger the following year.
“Everyone at Island Top Team is incredibly happy for Leah, we always look forward to her visits and share in her triumph.”