Langley karate athlete Derrick Cruz was presented with the W.R. Bennett Award for Athletic Excellence on Sunday in recognition of his outstanding achievements on and off the mat.

The award recognizes one athlete at each BC Winter and BC Summer Games who demonstrates athletic achievement and leadership and includes a $2500 bursary. Sunday’s presentation was made by Greater Vernon President Nicky Dunlop as part of the final day of karate competition at Kalamalka Secondary School in Coldstream.

At the Greater Vernon BC Winter Games, Cruz took home three gold medals in the Team Kata, Individual Kata, and Individual Kumite events.

“We are so happy that Derrick is awarded with this generous award. Derrick’s achievements are a good testimony to his dedication, resilience, and persistence – and he does it all with grace, calm, and the best attitude ever at his young age,” said Fraser Valley Zone 3 head coach Kamelia Fard.

“We are so proud of him and feel blessed to be a part of his exciting life journey from every aspect; excelling in the sport of karate, academic advancement, and watching him grow to a wonderful member of his community.”

Cruz was awarded the Karate BC Sportsmanship Award when he was U12 and the Karate BC Athlete of the Year Award in 2022 after winning a trio of gold medals in his age category at the Karate BC Provincial Championships in Richmond. He is a standout competitor in both Kata and Kumite, which is unique as most karate athletes compete in only one discipline.

In his free time, Cruz volunteers at his karate club teaching students as well as at community events in support of at-risk families and anti-bullying initiatives. His goal is to represent Canada in both Kata and Kumite at the 2023 Junior Pan American Karate Championships.

Through his extensive volunteering and leadership, Cruz has truly embodied the values of the BC Games Culture of the Games, which promotes positivity, respectfulness, inclusivity, and accessibility for all participants.

“He is gifted with a strong character and is a good example of setting goals and staying focused on them no matter what obstacles come on the way,” said Fard.

The W.R. Bennett Award for Athletic Excellence was named in honour of the former Premier of British Columbia, Bill Bennett, who was instrumental in starting the BC Summer and BC Winter Games program in 1978. The award was first presented by Bennett at the 2008 BC Summer Games, which were hosted in his hometown of Kelowna.

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