Indigenous

Métis school teacher ready for World Muay Thai Championships

She’s only been fighting in the Muay Thai ring for two years, but Sarah Carter is ready to test her skills against some of the world's best amateur fighters.

Sarah Carter of Winnipeg to represent Team Canada in Cancun

Sarah Carter helps to coach the weekend children's Muay Thai class at Nak Muay gym in Winnipeg. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

She's only been fighting in the Muay Thai ring for two years, but Sarah Carter is ready to test her skills against some of the world's best amateur fighters.

On Thursday, she will be representing Team Canada at the World Muay Thai Championships in Cancun, Mexico. Muay Thai is a combat sport that originated in Thailand. It's a type of boxing that incorporates the use of fists, elbows, knees and shins to strike the opponent.

Carter, 27, has Swampy Cree/Métis roots and is from Dryden, Ont. She now lives in Winnipeg and teaches French at St. Charles Catholic school. 

The competition in Mexico will feature more than 1,000 athletes from around the globe, and training for the event has pushed Carter to the limit.

Every weekday, she leaves the house at 7:30 a.m. for work, then afterward heads straight to Nak Muay gym for training, usually getting home at 10:30 p.m.

"There's nothing I'd rather be doing right now," said Carter.

Sarah Carter of Winnipeg to represent Team Canada in Cancun 2:42

Carter ended up getting involved in Muay Thai out of curiosity. After university, she wasn't ready to settle down. She wanted an adventure and left Canada to teach abroad in England.

While in England, she stumbled upon a Muay Thai gym on her daily commute.

"I walked to school every day, and there was a gym there. In the gym it said 'first class free,'" said Carter.

That first free Muay Thai class was enough to hook the former self-described "hockey goon."

She trained at the gym in England for one and a half years and had two official fights there before moving to Winnipeg.

Carter is originally from Dryden, Ont., but now lives in Winnipeg. (CBC)

The student becomes the teacher

It was back in Winnipeg, where she was introduced to 'Dangerous' Dave Zuniga, the head coach and owner of Nak Muay Gym.

Zuniga was born and raised in Winnipeg and has been involved in Muay Thai for 17 years. He has been mentoring Carter since she moved to the city, and loves the ambition that she has for fighting.

'Dangerous' Dave Zuniga is the head coach and owner of Nak Muay gym. He has put Sarah Carter under his wing since she moved to Winnipeg. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Despite her lack of experience — she has less than three years Muay Thai experience but has fought 10 times over the last year — Zuniga believes her work ethic has turned her into a high level competitor.

"Sarah has a great attitude," he said.

"You tell her to run five miles, she runs six. That's what separates her from other athletes."

Muay Thai is a non-sanctioned sport in Manitoba, and Zuniga thinks Carter is the first athlete from Manitoba to compete at the world level in Muay Thai.

When Carter is not teaching in the classroom or training in the gym, she helps Zuniga coach children's Muay Thai classes.

Carter helps to coach the weekend children's Muay Thai class. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

"I find that when you teach, you actually end up learning more about yourself," said Carter.

Carter is going into her first international competition knowing she has the full support of her family, her gym, and St. Charles Catholic school.

After long days of working, dieting, training and coaching, Carter believes she's done everything possible to achieve success.

"I'm confident in the fact that I know there's nothing else I could have done," she said.

Win or lose, she said she is just grateful for the chance to fight and learn.