Haya Jumaa switches gears to coaching at Canada Games while pregnant

Haya Jumaa has always wanted to try her hand at coaching, she just needed a break in her busy karate competition schedule to find the time. Her opportunity has finally arrived as she's coaching Team Ontario's karatekas at the Canada Winter Games, even though she is nearly eight months pregnant.

The 29-year-old Jumaa, from Mississauga, Ont., is the first Canadian ever to reach the World Karate Foundation's rankings and was No. 1 in the world last year. She stopped competing during her pregnancy and decided to follow in her parents' footsteps — they own a dojo — and give back to Ontario's martial arts community.

"Just me living with them all my life and witnessing how they coach, how my mom manages the whole team back home, and all that stuff, I feel like I learned a lot," said Jumaa the day before flying to Prince Edward Island for the Canada Games. "I was waiting for the spot where I have time out of competitions or out of my studies to be able to give back to the younger generation."

The Canada Winter Games run from Saturday to March 5 across P.E.I. Karate will be contested the first week of the national youth multi-sport event at Credit Union Place in Summerside.

The Jumaa family moved to to Canada from United Arab Emirates in 2013. Haya has wanted to compete at the Olympics since she watched the opening ceremony of the Athens Games in 2004. She volunteered at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, participating in a karate demonstration show before competing at the 2019 Pan Ams in Lima, Peru.

Jumaa became the first Canadian to ever reach the top spot in her category in the World Karate Federation ranking in June. That was thanks to consistent success and medals in the female kumite 61-kilogram division.

She said although she is eager to return to competition, coaching has taught her how to be even better at reading an opposing karateka's strengths and weaknesses.

"It was really amazing, because it gives you a different perspective," said Jumaa, who learned to sit back and watch her charges before giving them instruction. "It also makes it easier for me when I go to compete, because that gives me more trust, for example, when I have my father coaching me.

"I now better understand that he sees what I don't see sometimes, from the outside."

Jumaa's due date is in mid-March and she expects to return to competition a month after giving birth.

"In order to compete at the highest level, and to maintain my level, I have to be consistent with my training," she said, noting that she has maintained a healthy nutritional plan with her mom and has a workout regime planned with her dad. "I'm still maintaining my flexibility, my cardio in a specific way that is safe for me during my pregnancy so that when I recover I get back right away to competition."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press