August 13, 2009

By Gregory J. Campeau ’11

If earning all-conference and all-New England honors as a women’s soccer player weren’t enough, Lili Ferguson ’11E can now add to her list of athletic achievements important national and international victories in the martial arts.

Lili Ferguson ’11E
The U.S. team dominated at the World Karate Confederation championships held this past June in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., thanks to the efforts of the rising junior. Ferguson—the co-captain—and her skilled teammates labored hard to unseat the reigning champs from Europe. “Our biggest rivals, Italy, had taken the team cup in 2007 after the U.S.A. had won it for a decade straight,” Ferguson said, “and we were absolutely determined to defend our home turf and take back the cup.” And when the (saw)dust  had settled, she was thrilled to find that she and the U.S. team had indeed earned the overall medal-count victory, reinstalling the United States as the team to beat.

In addition to her team’s triumph, Ferguson won first place in the female middleweight sanbon kumite (three-point fighting), beating out several of her fellow Americans and an Australian, and bronze in team kata (forms). “I can’t put into words how incredible it was standing there with the flag on my shoulders, looking out over my team and the rest of the athletes while the national anthem played in my honor,” she said.

Following the international contest, she competed in the national karate championships a few days later and earned herself five more stunning victories. Not only did she top the middleweight division again, but Ferguson also took home a gold medal in team fighting, silver in Shotokan-style kata, bronze in the open-weight division and bronze in the kata grand championships—“the biggest deal of all.”

Starting out as a six-year-old who merely wanted to imitate the Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles, Ferguson has worked long and hard to become a champion. Whether traveling overseas to Japan to observe international tournaments or training for junior tournaments with Pride Dojo (her competitive karate school) in her home state of Illinois, her level of commitment is clear. She even forwent study abroad this past spring semester in order to train as intensively as possible for her June performances.

 “It has been such an absolutely fantastic semester off, and I have had such a great time training,” Ferguson said. Though being a world champion is a dream she said she never thought would come true, still “it was all about the journey.”