Two Red Deer Muay Thai fighters are preparing for the tournament of a lifetime.
Stephanie Schmale, 28, and Jenn Wiebe, 25, will compete in the TBA Classic, one of North America’s longest-running Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) tournaments, in Iowa, June 21-24.
Schmale started karate as a six-year-old and really struggled. When she got older, she wanted to give it another shot, but instead of karate, thought Muay Thai would be a better fit.
“There’s a confidence you get through fighting,” she said. “When you’re in the gym, it reflects on the rest of your life. If you get through a fight camp in Muay Thai, you can mentally get through anything.”
The two are originally from Sylvan Lake and knew each other before training together. But it was Muay Thai that brought them closer, said Schmale.
“Jenn ‘fan-girled’ me at one of my first fights,” Schmale said. “She came up to me after and was all excited and … said, ‘That was awesome I can’t wait to do that.’ ”
The TBA Classic will be Schmale’s second time fighting outside of Canada – she competed in Hungary last year.
Wiebe started karate at four and worked her way to becoming a black belt. When she went to Thailand — where her father worked — she learned more about Muay Thai.
“I got to watch some Thai fights, and it was really exciting. So I trained in Thailand and got to do it,” she said.
Wiebe said this will be her first competition in a long time.
“You have a bit of nervousness, a bit of excitement. (There are) lots of things running through your head,” she said.
Will Quijada, the women’s coach at Absolute Fitness in Red Deer, said it’s impressive how much training the two put in.
“They train anywhere between three to four hours a day, four to six days a week.
“That includes: running, martial arts practice, their strength and conditioning,” he said.
Quijada said he expects them to perform well at the TBA Classic, which features some of North America’s best athletes.
“They have some tough fights ahead of them, but they’ve been preparing well. Everything’s been going well in their training camps … so we’re going for the belts,” he said.
The two could fight up to four times during the tournament.