Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for February 25, 2014

National judo star shares wisdom with next generation

The territory’s youngest judokas continued to work on their craft in the presence of one of the country’s best Saturday.

By Marcel Vander Wier on February 25, 2014 at 2:37 pm

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Photo by Marcel Vander Wier

FIRST OF MANY – Nine-year-old Luna Velasquez puts all she has into pinning 10-year-old Kaajineek Neumann to the mat during the Northern Lights Championships Saturday. The match win earned Velasquez her first gold medal(top). ALL TANGLED UP – Eleven-year-old Paige Poelman, top, and Talula Maxfield, 12, look to gain an edge over one another during a judo match Saturday.

The territory’s youngest judokas continued to work on their craft in the presence of one of the country’s best Saturday.

Clubs from around the Yukon gathered at École Émilie-Tremblay in Whitehorse to compete in the Northern Lights Championship.

Directing the tournament was former national judo champion and Team Canada member Bianca Ockedahl.

The Montreal-born judoka is currently spending two months in the territory as Judo Yukon’s high-performance coach.

“I just want to help develop the program and get more kids involved in judo,” Ockedahl told the Star. “I’m also trying to help educate the other coaches that are here.”

Ockedahl also oversaw last month’s judo tournament in Carcross, and said the young athletes are already showing marked improvement in technical ability, strategy and conditioning.

“I saw there had to be a little bit of adjustment,” she explained. “After that, we’ve been working on that, moreso to prepare some athletes for Edmonton, which is a bigger tournament. This was a good prep tournament for the athletes that are going to Edmonton.”

Many of the young judokas are working towards the Edmonton International Judo Championship, scheduled to take place March 14 to 16 at the West Edmonton Mall.

Ockedahl said she has also started a munchkin class for four- to seven-year-olds that she hopes pays dividends in the future.

“It’s nice to start developing them and build that pyramid up,” she said of her pilot project.

“If you keep developing them, eventually maybe we can have some athletes at nationals, winning nationals ... Who knows? It’d be nice to develop it to that point where we can take on the other provinces too.”

In her brief time in the territory, Ockedahl has bonded quickly with many of the female judokas.

“They’re not used to seeing a female athlete in judo come so far,” she said. “It’s kind of neat.”

Saturday’s championship featured divisions ranging from Under-7 to Under-20, and was followed by a medal ceremony.

Gold medal winners included: Kenai Bryden, Emery Ohlin, Luke Roberts, Rogan Parry, Brennen Little, Glade Roberts, Dylan Anderson, Emersyne Sias, Eban Basnett, Daniel Tonner, Ben Machtans, Luna Velasquez, Rowan Kingston, Jadon Leenders, Judith Russell, Amy Roberts, and Joseph Melanson.

On top of their gold medals, Velasquez was named best female athlete, Basnett was best male athlete and Kingston took home an award for sportsmanship. All are members of the Shiroumakai club.

Daniel Tonner of the Northern Lights club had the best throw.

Velasquez, nine, was very proud of her first gold medal, achieved in the U-12 Mixed Intermediate +45 kg weight class.

“I’ve got in second place all the time in wrestling and judo, but this is my first gold medal and it means a lot,” she said.

The young student at Christ the King Elementary has been a judoka for just four months.

“I just like it because I want to learn all the fighting sports,” Velasquez said. “I just wanted to take a try, so I did and I loved it and wanted to stick to it.”

Nine-year-old Basnett, also a student at Christ the King, won gold in the U-12 Boy’s Intermediate -30 kg class. It wasn’t the veteran judoka’s first time atop the podium, but he remained proud nonetheless.

“I have tonnes of golds,” he said, before explaining why he likes judo. “You get to wrestle around and stuff.”

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