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7-year-old Pokémon prodigy heading to Hawaii for world championship tournament

Brantley Meharg, 7, shows off a medal he received for placing in the top-eight at a recent Pokémon regional championship tournament. Despite having just started playing Pokémon two years ago, Meharg is heading to Hawaii this summer to compete at worlds. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor) Brantley Meharg, 7, shows off a medal he received for placing in the top-eight at a recent Pokémon regional championship tournament. Despite having just started playing Pokémon two years ago, Meharg is heading to Hawaii this summer to compete at worlds. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)
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Catching 'em all with impressive speed, a 7-year-old boy from Windsor, Ont. who only started his competitive Pokémon journey seven months ago has already levelled up to compete at a world championship level.

To qualify for the 2024 Pokémon World Championships in Hawaii, players must register for regional tournaments and rack up points by defeating opponents.

Since registering for his first regional tournament this past October, Brantley Meharg has been attending more events across Canada and the U.S. — earning enough points to qualify for the world championship tournament in Hawaii this summer.

Most recently, Meharg attended the Pokémon Video Game Midseason Showdown inside the St. Clair College Nexus Arena this weekend.

"Pokémon is just special to me. It's my talent," said Meharg.

His journey to becoming a Pokémon Master started after his mother, who used to play with Pokémon cards as a child, purchased a Nintendo Switch so she could play the video game, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which released on Jan. 28, 2022.

"He quickly stole it and just started playing it," said Sarah Lozon.

After Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet released in November 2022, Meharg started playing Violet and beat the game "in about a week," Lozon added.

Meharg's interest grew to the point where he felt ready enough to compete at the Toronto Pokémon Regional Championships in late October 2023.

Pokémon tournaments are split into three age groups: juniors (0-12), seniors (13-16) and Masters (17 and older).

Competing in the juniors division at the Toronto regional tournament, Meharg earned a top-eight award.

Between October 2023 and March 2024, Meharg has competed at Pokémon tournaments in Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, Michigan and the Windsor-based St. Clair College Nexus Arena.

On March 8, Meharg learned he had earned enough points to compete at the worlds in Honolulu this August.

"I think it's every parent's dream for their child to find something that they love to do and that they excel at. It's like playing soccer or hockey or baseball. This is his sport and he takes it just as seriously," said Lozon.

According to his mother, Meharg practices "three to four hours a night" — learning how to get better by watching Pokémon videos on YouTube and working with a support team of Windsor-based players who are older than him.

Nathan Ritchie, far left, Tecara Newton, second, and Ben Helsel, third, have been helping train and support Brantley Meharg on his journey through Pokémon tournaments. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)"We didn't get here alone. When Brantley decided in October that he wanted to go to his first regional, we put out a cry for help to our local Pokémon community," said Lozon.

"Some local professors ... came together and helped him to build a team. Two other local players also helped. They've been coaching and training him so that's been really important."

For Lozon, Pokémon is more than just a video game. It's an opportunity for her 7-year-old son to develop social skills and confidence.

"It's his realm. It's where he's most comfortable. It's where he can hold conversations and people can respond to him at the same level," said Lozon.

"It's rewarding, as a parent, seeing him talk to Masters after a round about how he's done. They come back to you after and say, 'Are you aware of how awesome your kid is?'" she added.

As for Meharg, he is going into worlds with an open mind.

He understands the difficulty will be cranked up to a level he has never experienced before — but no matter the skill level of his opponents in Hawaii, his mindset remains the same: try and be the very best, like no one ever was.

"I know I might be good over here [in the U.S. and Canada]. But there's a lot of good players who will be going there from across the world," said Meharg. "It'll just be an honour to be there."

Meharg's parents are seeking community support to raise funds for his flight to the 2024 Pokémon World Championships in Honolulu, taking place from August 16 to 18.

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