Candidates Announced for 2009 Chris Canning Award of Excellence

June 15, 2009, 12:05 p.m. (ET)

Five worthy candidates have been nominated for the 5th Annual Chris Canning Award of Excellence. The winner will be announced on Friday, July 3, prior to the start of competition at the Junior Olympics in Austin, Texas.

The five candidates for this year's award are:

  • Olie Burton (Accokeek, Md.)
  • Matthew Dunlap (Hermiston, Ore.)
  • Bryan Monte de Oca (Ridgewood, N.Y.)
  • Aaron Porras (Highlands Ranch, Colo.)'
  • Jared Schneider (Sugar Land, Texas)

The Chris Canning Award of Excellence was adopted in honor and tribute to Christopher James Canning, an accomplished martial artist, who died accidentally in June of 2001, at the age of 15. Chris was an honor student, a star athlete for his school in football, basketball, and baseball, a classical pianist, worked at an animal shelter, and helped the homeless and needy. In just 4 years as a martial artist, he earned his first degree black belt in Taekwondo, was a member of 11 state teams, won over 30 medals at the national and state level including 15 state and 3 national titles, was an AAU All American, member of the US Elite team training at the Olympic Training Center, invited to the US Gold Team training and  was 5 times athlete of the week and Illinois' USNTF athlete and student of the year.

He has been honored by the President of the United States, a speech was made in tribute to what he accomplished and represented on the U.S. Senate floor in Washington, D.C., he was honored by the House of Representatives, and received 2 National Service Organizations President's awards for his community service. In addition, he has been inducted into the U. S. and World Martial Arts Halls of Fame and 6 other International Halls of Fame, has 4 national and 6 international awards given out in his name in US, Canada, Ireland, and England, and received 12 special recognition awards from martial arts legends and organizations worldwide. At last year's Senior National Championships a special recognition by Mr. Jim Scherr, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, was given to his family for Chris living his life as a representative of the Olympic Ideals and for his personal, academic, artistic, and athletic excellence. Just recently, Chris was honored by the Taekwondo Hall of Fame as the 1st recipient of the "Youth Excellence Award", inducted into the World Organization of Martial Arts Athletes hall of fame in Ireland, and declared as the "Most Outstanding Junior Martial Artist of the Past Decade".

The Chris Canning Award of Excellence is presented to the one martial artists who most exhibits what Chris represented and achieved. He or she has excelled academically, gained national and interanational acclaim as a martial arts competitor, given back to the community they live in and demonstrated the same personal attributes as the awards namesake.

Previous winners of the Chris Canning Award of Excellence

  • Paige McPherson (2008)
  • Jermaine James (2007)
  • Maia Eubanks (2006)
  • Aimee Callison (2005)