After entering an international taekwondo championship on a whim, a Moncton man who battled a near fatal illness just a few years ago, has come home with a gold medal.
Sam Johnston recently returned home from a trip to South Korea as champion in the Senior Master Integration Division at the World Taekwondo Championships.
“I was on top of the world,” said Johnston of his win.
Bringing home a medal was not the 52-year-old’s plan. Competing was not even part of the plan, but Johnston figured since he was going to be in Seoul taking part in the international masters instructors course, he might as well enter the competition.
“I mustered up the courage to enter. I hadn’t competed since I was 38.”
Johnston has been a martial arts taekwondo practitioner since he was a teenager. He is now an instructor who has achieved his master’s rank in eighth degree black belt.
A senior manager with Corrections Canada, he has also taught a number of students in Miramichi and Moncton.
Life changing illness
Over the years, Johnston competed in eastern and central Canada and in the eastern U.S., winning numerous competitions and rankings. He was planning to compete in the world championship competition seven years ago but two months before the event, he got sick.
“During my classes I was feeling very tired. I was getting winded easy and I just didn’t have a lot of energy.”
Johnston went to the doctor and a blood test revealed he had leukemia.
He spent the next four months in the hospital in isolation getting ready for stem cell transplant. Johnston’s brother was a viable match.
“He’s very different than me personality wise but he was a perfect genetic match blood wise.”
Johnston describes this time in his life as gruelling and difficult as he underwent various treatments to treat the disease.
“It took a lot out of me. I lost a fair amount of weight and I was weak but I was…