Chris Canning lived the martial arts way and applied its tenets to every aspect of his life. In doing so, he excelled in all activities he undertook. His approach was to be there when needed and to make a difference by his efforts. Whether it was in academics, sports, the arts, taekwondo, community involvement or care and concern for others, Chris did all he could to improve the situation and meet the challenge he faced at the time. As a result, during the opening ceremonies of the Junior Olympics in November of 2006, Chris was honored by Jim Scherr, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, with a certificate of achievement which stated in part, "this is in recognition of living his life as a representative of the Olympic ideals and for his personal, artistic, athletic and academic excellence." This tribute, coupled with the honors received by the secretary general of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, the Gold Star Service award presented by the President of the United States, a speech made in his honor on the U.S. Senate floor in Washington, and the President's Award given by the Points of Light Foundation, provided the foundation for the legacy of excellence that was to become a reality. These honors and accolades addressed mainly the personal and humanitarian side of his life, which is one of the main pillars of the national program of recognition for martial artists who have gained international status and are also world class human beings.
The second pillar supporting the legacy is found in his accomplishments within the martial arts. In just four years, under the instruction of Master Joshua Sharp, Chris was a member of 11 state teams, won 15 state titles, three national titles, gained AAU All American status, trained at the Olympic Training Center, and was the 1999 "Student/Athlete of the Year" for the USNTF. As a result of his martial arts accomplishments, he has received over 90 honors and awards since his passing in 2001. Some of these tributes include induction in two U.S., two world and 10 international halls of fame in such categories as Junior Martial Arts Legend, World's Outstanding Jr. Martial Artist, North America's Outstanding Jr. Martial Artist, and Outstanding Junior Martial Artist of the Past Decade. In addition, 18 martial arts legends worldwide paid tribute to him and 12 special organizational awards, from around the globe have been given for his achievements. Six national and international martial arts magazines have published feature articles in his memory. While the honors received are treasured, Chris would have hidden behind a shroud of modesty trying to avoid the recognition and publicity, diverting the attention to others, or playing down his achievements and their impact.
The third pillar is in the recognition that is being given to the excellence within the martial artist today. In this generation of martial arts competitors, 45 national, international, and world champions have received a "Chris Canning Award" at major championships or a hall of fame event. Since 2005, the "Chris Canning Award of Excellence" is one of the highest honors given as part of the USA Taekwondo National Awards Program and has paid tribute to four world-class martial artists and outstanding human beings. They represent the "best of the best" by meeting and exceeding the four standards of the award. These winners include Aimee Callison (2005), Maia Eubanks (2006), Jermaine James (2007), and Paige McPherson (2008), all tremendous young men and women. They carry forth the legacy of Chris Canning by their martial arts excellence, personal attributes, academic achievement and community involvement.
They provide an exceptional example of how to apply the martial arts way to all of life's challenges and opportunities, with a resolve to prevail, while maintaining a respect for those around them.
The fourth and final pillar is the continuation of the recognition in the future. Chris' legacy will live on by the continued selection and recognition of outstanding young men and women in the martial arts. Today, there are 10 competitor awards and five scholarships given nationally and internationally in his name throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The highest Chris Canning Award given in the United States is presented by the USA Taekwondo organization, providing incentive for recognition to those who emulate Chris' approach to life and the national recognition for those who have been selected as recipients. Each recipient of this award will be an ambassador for the legacy and an inspiration to other young martial artists to follow their example. It is through this process that the legacy lives on and grows, with the beneficiaries being the youth of today and tomorrow.
This year's winner of the Chris Canning Award of Excellence will be honored with a beautiful trophy and a $1,000 scholarship during the opening ceremonies of the 2009 Junior Olympics in Austin, Texas. Should you know of an outstanding young martial artist deserving of such an honor and recognition, please submit their information to USA Taekwondo in care of Bill Kellick, Director of Communications, at Bill.Kellick@usa-taekwondo.us on or before 6/8/09. The information sent should include documented academic achievement, a martial arts resume indicating years of training, rank, medal placements at state, national and international competitions, and letters of recommendation indicating how they have given back to their community and describing the personal attributes of the candidate. A candidate must be the ages of 14 to 22 (both included), be an active member of USA Taekwondo for at least one year, be a competitor at the 2009 Senior Nationals and/or Jr. Olympic Championships, be in attendance at the Jr. Olympic opening ceremonies and be at least a first degree black belt. The person making the submittal should include all their contact information in case a clarification is necessary on information sent in.