Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

PODIUM POWER – Austin Chiasson, behind, attempts to take down Felix Hebert, front, in Under-10 division Northern Lights Judo Tournament action Saturday.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

Samuel Fearon looks to make his next move on top of Chiasson. Fearon took the gold with Hebert and Chiasson winning silver and bronze respectively.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

Brandon-Lee Chiasson lands a takedown on Brett MacFarlane in a U-12 division final. Chiasson took the gold medal.

Northern Lights hosts largest judo tournament

The gym at École Émilie-Tremblay was filled with energetic and eager judokas Saturday for the third Judo Yukon competition of the season and the first held in Whitehorse.

By Dustin Cook on January 22, 2018

The gym at École Émilie-Tremblay was filled with energetic and eager judokas Saturday for the third Judo Yukon competition of the season and the first held in Whitehorse.

With the sport only continuing to grow in the territory, Judo Yukon communications director Sylvain Racine said this is the largest tournament Northern Lights Judo Club has hosted.

Before the tournament, Racine said there were 87 young athletes signed up to participate, with a variety of divisions based on age, skill level and weight class.

What made the tournament special was the ability for the judo club to host their friends from the communities where the sport continues to grow out of Hiroshikai Judo Club in Carcross and the Carmacks Judo Club in its second year.

Carmacks head coach Bianca Ockedahl had her hands full throughout the afternoon, but when she had a moment to spare from being coach and chaperone she said about 20 athletes from her club made their way down for this tournament, more than last year in their first trip down to Whitehorse.

She said the club in Carmacks has grown since their inaugural season with what started as 20 students increasing to around 30 members for this season and looking for further ways to expand.

“I think the kids really enjoy it. They’re learning more, their confidence is a lot more up there,” she said. “The older kids that were there last year are now helping out with the younger kids.”

The judo club in Carmacks had a chance to host a tournament in November, with Judo Yukon providing an opportunity for every club in the territory to have a home event.

“I think all the communities where there is a club it’s great. It’s nice exposure to the community,” Ockedahl said. “We’re always happy to have as many people as we can to come up to our tournament and I’m sure the other communities feel the same way.”

Carcross hosted the first tournament of the season with the Whitehorse clubs having the chance to travel before hosting tournaments of their own.

“A lot of the kids have gone to Carcross and Carmacks and because they come here, we encourage them to go,” Racine said.

Double-knockout competition took place in each age division with the younger athletes competing only in ground competition, known as ne-waza rather than starting the bouts standing.

This is different than in previous years, Racine said, with Northern Lights sensei Dan Poelman opting to focus on the ground techniques for the younger athletes before advancing to the standing, tachi-waza competition.

A bracket style competition was held in each division to determine the three medallists.

Even after losing one match, competitiors still had a chance to get on the podium in the second half of the bracket.

In the afternoon, the older and more experienced competitors took part in the tachi-waza competition.

Many of these competitors came from the Shiroumaki Judo Club out of Whitehorse which Racine said focuses on higher-level competition and many of the athletes go outside of the territory to compete.

He said these athletes also help out with the practices with the younger Northern Lights judokas.

“It’s such a small group of kids, everybody goes and helps and trains with everybody,” Racine said.

Aside from the competition on the mat, there was a second component to the tournament and another chance to win a medal.

The up-and-coming judokas were tested on their judo knowledge as well given terms that they need to define in order to score points.

Racine said this is another way for athletes to show their knowledge of the sport and be recognized away from the mat.

“There are certain terms, certain techniques and kids get tested on what they remember and it is part of their competition,” he said. “A kid that may not be the most aggressive fighter can still win a gold medal because he’s really good at remembering and they get validated that way too.”

Overall, Racine said the event ran smoothly even with the large number of participants as they were able to run two mats of competition and two tables of judo knowledge at the same time.

He said the only negative was being able to communicate with everyone in attendance.

“We need a better PA system,” he said. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of noise.”

The next Judo Yukon competition will also be in Whitehorse held by the Golden Horn Judo Club on Feb. 17.

For Ockedahl and the Carmacks club, she said two judokas will be going to the Edmonton International Judo Championships in March.

Also in March, four female athletes from the club will be going to a female training camp in Alberta.

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