First Name: Sara-Lynne
Last Name: Knockwood
Sport: Taekwondo
Inductee Type: Athlete
Year Inducted: 2023
Home Town: Sipekne’katik First Nation
County: Hants

Speaking of Sara-Lynne Knockwood, legendary Mi’kmaw sport builder Tex Marshall says, “She inspires people to aim for success, aim for excellence, and just aim to be better.” Extraordinary words for an extraordinary athlete, whose relationship with the sport of Taekwondo began almost by accident.

The story begins with a Dad in the RCMP, who wanted to be sure his daughters knew how to defend themselves. The Knockwood sisters started first in boxing, but then decided they’d like to try kick-boxing. So, they went looking for a club in Dartmouth, and thought they had found one.

“Well, Sara-Lynne came in with her parents and two sisters,” recalls coach David McKenna. “They were looking for some kickboxing, but the closest thing they could find to that was my sport, Taekwondo. Fortunately, it had a lot of kicking—fast, high, and spinning kicks—and they liked it!”

McKenna remembers an athlete who was totally dedicated from day one.

“She’d go above and beyond in training, very coachable that way,” says McKenna. “She never complained, she never really got hurt in sparring in the gym, she was very careful. Her boxing training that she had done probably helped her in regard to defence. And she was relentless. You tell somebody that you want them to do 100 kicks before they take a break, and they might do 90. She’d do 110, and then ask if she should do more.”

That desire to get better made Sara-Lynne a dream for a coach, but for an opponent… more of a nightmare.

Long-time friend Farida Gabbani remembers Sara-Lynne as a “fierce competitor, and a competitor who had done all the work that had needed to be done before she would go into that situation. And she would never give up, she would work as hard as she could and she was successful.”

“Sara-Lynne has a great deal of mental toughness,” adds Marshall. “She’s very focused, very driven in what she decides to do, and she sees things through to the end, so her succeeding at the highest level would be something that would be within her character.”

It took very little time for Sara-Lynne Knockwood to reach that highest level.

At the first official tournament she ever competed in…she won gold.

In 2002, at her first North American Indigenous Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she won two gold medals representing Nova Scotia.

Also in 2002, at her first World Championship in Miami, Florida, Sara-Lynne proved best for her age on the planet… winning the U16 girl’s world title for her weight class. It was a milestone moment for the young athlete from the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

“After that gold medal match, I remember calling home on my dad’s cell phone – you know, those old Nokias – and telling my family that I had won, “recalls Sara-Lynne. “I cried, not because of my own achievement, but because that win validated all of their hard work. That gold medal gave back to them, what they poured into me. I’ll never forget that feeling.”

“She means so much to her community,” says Gabbani. “She has never swayed from her first joy, which is sharing what she has and what she can do and what she can teach people in the community. She is proof that you don’t have to go anywhere else, and that the place you are is the place you should be.”

Adds Marshall: “She’s an absolute excellent role model for young Indigenous women and girls. She’s an epitome of what you can accomplish in life if you just focus and commit to something, and basically she’s someone that we all look up to, not only young Indigenous Mi’kmaq women and girls, but men and boys too.”

Knockwood adds that a big key is “not to be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. It can be a scary thing to try something new. But if you don’t try, you won’t know. And if you don’t get it the first time, that’s ok. You’re going to learn and get better. And don’t be afraid to ask other people for help. Encourage youth to give back to the sport and to the community, because nobody gets somewhere on their own. And you never know where someone might go.”

Knockwood speaks with the experience of someone who has reached the pinnacle of her sport. In 2016, she became the first female athlete to be inducted to the Mi’kmaq Sports Hall of Fame. In the summer of 2023, she became the first athlete ever to be named to the North American Indigenous Games Council Hall of Honour. And tonight, this young woman who means so much to so many, makes even more history, being inducted to the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.

According to Marshall, the timing couldn’t be better…

“We’re working toward more opportunities and equality for women and girls, especially within the Indigenous communities. I think that’s probably the theme on the international and national front, and also within Indigenous communities and our Mi’kmaq communities. We need to promote our Indigenous women and girls through sport, it’s time to celebrate them. And Sara-Lynne becoming a member of the Nova Sport Hall of Fame I think is very fitting at this point in our history.”

Sara-Lynne Knockwood was the Director of Sport and Venue for NAIG 2023. In that role, she oversaw the delivery of all 16 sports and ensured that venues were properly prepared to host them.

*Article by Bruce Rainnie*


Open World Under-16 Lightweight Taekwondo Champion, 2002
Pan American Championship gold medallist, 2002
Three-time North American Indigenous Games gold medallist
The first Indigenous woman to be inducted to the Mi’kmaq Sports Hall of Fame
The first woman and athlete to be inducted to the North American Indigenous Games Hall of Honour