Whitehorse Daily Star

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BRING HOME BRONZE – Lia Hinchey, right, and Nunavut U18 -90 kg athlete Julian Gissling both brought home bronze medals from the Judo Open Nationals May 18-21 at Montreal.

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ALL SMILES – Members of Judo Yukon pose for a pic at the Judo Open Nationals at Montreal, which took place May 18-21. Left to right: Aaron Jensen, Liam Gishler, Leah McLean, Lia Hinchey, Penny Prysnuk, Jaymi Hinchey, Huxley Briggs, and Kaylee Fortier.

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WARM EMBRACE – Sisters Jaymi (left) and Lia (right) Hinchey embrace following their U18 battle.

Lia Hinchey wins bronze at Judo Open Nationals

A Hinchey won a bronze at the Judo Open National Championships recently, but it wasn’t Jaymi.

By Morris Prokop on May 31, 2023

A Hinchey won a bronze at the Judo Open National Championships recently, but it wasn’t Jaymi. It was her younger sister, Lia, who accomplished this feat.

Lia topped off a good performance by Judo Yukon at the Nationals, which took place in Montreal May 18-21.

The Nationals were followed by a three-day training camp in Montreal.

The team arrived late on May 17. Weigh-ins were May 18. Most of the athletes started fighting on May 19.

Judo Yukon Head Coach Aaron Jensen said “It went very well, considering where we come from, at that level of an event. It was a very good experience overall for everybody, the athletes and the coaches, just to get out at that level of an event.”

According to Jensen, there were close to 1,000 participants at the event.

Judo Yukon sent six athletes and two coaches, Jensen and Penny Prysnuk.

Jensen said it was one of the bigger teams to go to the Open Nationals in the last 10 years.

“Coming home with a medal is also a quite pleasant surprise.”

Of course, Lia Hinchey’s performance stood out.

“She had a really good draw,” said Jensen.

Unfortunately, Hinchey lost her first match.

“She didn’t turn it on really until it was too late. She was already down by a point. And then the last minute of that three minute match, she took it to the other girl but it was just a little bit too late,” recalled Jensen.

“She came back and won three matches in a row to take herself into the bronze medal match, which was quite exceptional. So it was really good to see her end on a positive note like that.”

Hinchey said “I was really excited with how I did. It was unexpected but yeah, just really happy.

“I fought really well that weekend and it was a lot of fun.

“I lost my first match and then I had to fight three more matches to get into the bronze. I was just really motivated. I fought a couple girls from a few different places and it worked out well.”

Hinchey got a break for the bronze medal match itself.

“The girl I was supposed to fight didn’t show up for my match.”

That resulted in an automatic win for Hinchey.

Hinchey also had to fight her older sister Jaymi in U18. Lia said it wasn’t the first time.

“We had to fight once in a tournament in Edmonton as well. And obviously it sucks having to fight your sister or any of your friends. Sometimes your draws don’t work out so well. Surprisingly, we haven’t had to fight too many times, fighting in the same category for so many years.”

As for how the fight at Nationals went, “She ended up winning that one,” said Lia. “It was a hard fought match for both of us. It was not easy either way.”

The result wasn’t a shock.

“I wasn’t super-surprised,” said Lia. “I tried my best and so did she. It could have gone either way. But neither of us, I think, were pretty surprised.”

Despite the fact that they were fighting each other, Lia said, “There was no holding back or anything like that.”

Lia wasn’t the only Hinchey who stood out at the tournament.

“Jaymi’s performance was quite exceptional,” said Jensen. “She placed seventh in each of her divisions, which in both cases was one fight away from the bronze medal match.”

“In the U18 Division, she made a mistake which cost her the match. I told her, ‘That girl didn’t really beat you. You threw yourself, you gave her that point.’ And if she would have won that match, the bronze medal match, she’s beaten that girl more than once before.”

Jensen added of Jaymi, “When she knows she can beat somebody, she’s really hard to beat.

Jensen noted, “Our whole team has improved immensely in the last year with the amount of experience that we’ve got them by going outside. So that was really good to see.”

However, Jensen said the bronze medal Lia won is nice, but he puts more emphasis on the training camp.

“If we can go Outside to a tournament, yes, that’s great. But if there’s a training camp, that’s even better, I think they gain more from that, the two days of training with people from all across the country.”

Jensen said the training camp after the tournament was “awesome.”

The camp took place at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. According to Jensen, there were 500-600 participants at the camp. They were split into two groups. Group one was all the females and U16 boys and group two was everybody else.

Jensen recorded the training session on video.

He said in a two hour session, they do about a 20 minute warm-up, a 20-30 minute technical component, and then at least an hour of fighting.

“The kids get a lot of input when they actually go out and free practice, what we call randori,” related Jensen. “So it’s practice fighting in a sense.”

The athletes have to practice with people from other clubs.

“That gets them out of their comfort zone,” explained Jensen.

He said there were a lot of black belts at the training camp. One of them was 2021 world champion and 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Jessica Klimkait.

“She’s on the mats practicing with these kids, and it’s pretty cool to see,” said Jensen.

Jensen also receives valuable input from other coaches at Outside events.

“It’s really nice to get some feedback from other coaches of what’s working well or some points of view of what we could be working on. They see things from our athletes that maybe I hadn’t noticed.”

He added, “It was a great trip. I think everybody came back positive and the kids seem motivated – from my aspect, it’s all about just keeping these kids retained. Hopefully they come back.

“We’re changing into our summer schedule, which is going to allow the kids some freedom to do some other sports, cross training or whatnot. And we just cross our fingers that they’re going to come back in the fall and want to be competitive again, as we start to build the next tier or the next Canada Games team. Next year will be our start of a four-year cycle.”

Here are the Judo Yukon results from the Nationals:

Jaymi Hinchey U18 -57:
Tied for 7th (two-way tie) out of 23

Jaymi Hinchey U21 -57:
Two-way tie for 7th out of 17

Leah Mclean U18 -63:
Tied for 23rd (Five-way tie) out of 31

Leah Mclean U21 -63:
Two-way tie for 16th out of 17

Liam Gishler U18 -60:
Tied for 23rd (eight-way tie) out of 31

Liam Gishler U21 -60:
Four-way tie for 11th out of 21

Lia Hinchey U18 -57:
Tied for 11th (four-way tie) out of 23

Lia Hinchey U16 -57:
Bronze (Two-way tie for 3rd) out of 10

Kaylee Fortier U18 -70:
Four-way tie for 15th out of 15

Huxley Briggs U16 -38:
Four-way tie for 6th out of 7

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