Tiffany Van Soest: Kickboxing

Professional athletes all have their own superstitions or pre-competition rituals. One of mine included calling my Oma (grandma) from backstage right before I got my hands wrapped and taped up before I got into my zone. I always called to let her know I was getting ready to fight and to hear whatever words of encouragement she had. Usually something simple, short, and sweet (she knew nothing about fighting) but her words were always the last piece of armour and comfort I needed before heading into battle. Grandmas have that special effect! I always let her know I was all settled and getting ready and that I loved her and I’d call her after to let her know I was ok. Before this particular fight when I called she didn’t answer. I wasn’t too worried because sometimes she took a little longer to get to the phone and on Fridays she and her neighbours would all sit out on the her deck drinking wine and catching up on their latest gossip. After another call and no answer I figured she was just doing that and since I had to get ready to warm up I’d just call her after the fight. Sure the superstitious part of me was definitely worried and anxious about the break in ritual but I had my job to do so I couldn’t think too much more about it. 

Fast forward through the fight. I won easily and all was well. I am so grateful for the stranger who captured this moment which followed. It is one of my favorites of all time. Obviously, winning my world titles have been monumental and important moments in my life and career but this particular moment is closer to my heart. This photo was taken in midst of the post-fight whirlwind bliss while being escorted out of the ring back to the backstage dressing room. The athletic commissioner tried to hurry me past cheering fans and supporters so that I could get checked out and cleared by the doctor (standard procedure immediately after a fight). About halfway to the door from the steps of the ring as I was high fiving fans as I passed in a blur of adrenaline and energy, I looked for my parents as usual, and to my bewildered astonishment, my mom had made her way through the crowd, past security, and gently put my Oma right in front of me. When I saw her, shock surged through me as I instantly started crying tears of happiness and we shared a hug and laughter. I was absolutely dumbfounded and thrilled to see her. From the start of my career, my Oma had always been supportive but made it very clear she would never come watch me fight in person. She was a lover with no tolerance for violence. She wouldn’t even go to one of my cousin’s high school wrestling matches so a brutal Muay Thai fight was definitely out of the question. Although she hated it, she usually watched me on TV from home, through her fingers, or from behind a pillow. Not this time. My family made it a mission to get her to Las Vegas and keep her hidden from me until after the fight. She had been there for a day already and I had no idea! Mission accomplished. I was stunned. Seeing her there with that endearing smile and arms stretched out for me as I made my way through the crowd melted my body into a puddle of elation and love. It was ten times better than winning any fight and is a precious moment that I will forever cherish.