It is amazing what talent grows out of our little neighbourhood. And better yet, this talent also knows how to give back to the community that supported him.This particular story is about a young Vanier-born Jiu-Jitsu fighter who saw the potential in opening up a gym – to share his passion with the rest of the community.  

Now, 50 years later – 53 to be exact – John Therien finds himself celebrating his long-term love affair with the sport. “You do it because you love to,” he said. “You follow your destiny.” Born in Vanier, Therien learned the sport at the local community centre. He achieved his black belt in1968 at 19, opening his school a few years later.  

Over the years, Therien has been showered with accolades and awards – but here is where one stands out for this man. One, he said which truly shows that all his hard work has paid off. Therien was inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame on March 29. “It’s an honour,” he said of being inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame. Initially meant to take place in May 2020, then in November 2020, the event turned virtual as many have these days, and although the man – who loves a good event, with people, laughter and hugs – said it remained a very proud moment, despite the virtual pivot.  

A long-time community supporter, for his home neighbourhood and his City – Therien said he does not let his age – or something like a pandemic – stop him from promoting his sport, which has expanded to include kickboxing over the years. “It’s been a hell of a ride, but I am not done. I am still going.” Therien will host a 24-hour Martial Arts event online in May, including coaches and fighters from around the world. With 96 classes, Therien said it would be a message to let everyone know these schools are here. They are fighting to survive the pandemic. “This is to raise hope in Martial Arts, to let everyone know, you are not alone, stay alive – and we are coming back,” he said.  

In addition to his ongoing commitments to the sport, Therien has also been a huge supporter of the success of business and neighbourhood vibrancy for Vanier over the years. As chairman for the Vanier business improvement area, Quartier Vanier BIA, Therien championed many initiatives and proudly promoted Vanier any time he could, to anyone he met. A proud Papi – Therien said now he finds it is his grandchildren, and the young men and women – most four times younger than him – that he trains who inspire him to keep going, keep training and keep motivating. 

Therien moved from fighter to trainer early in his career and this is where he shone. He has since trained world champions. Multiple. If you could count how many he shared with the love of the sport, helped them grow to open their own gyms or become promoters of the sport themselves – your head would spin, losing count.And you would get lost in an international world of colleagues, friends and family who all learned one way or another under this man. “I knew I wouldn’t be a world champion, so I trained them,” he said.He added he is looking forward to the day he can take his grandchildren to see his name on the hall of fame wall at City Hall. It’s more important to me to show them that if you work hard, look what you can achieve,” Therien said. “I can’t be the best at everything, but I can be the best at some things – and this is one.”