Liam Saunders of Northern Lights Judo Club twists and turns as he attempts to get out from under his opponent during a judo match in Carmacks on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Carmacks hosts first-ever Yukon team judo tournament

‘We just want them to have a good time and enjoy something different’

Judokas from across the Yukon flocked to Carmacks on March 3 for the Carmacks Judo Challenge.

The challenge used a team format — the first of its kind in the Yukon.

Bianca Ockedahl, head instructor for the Carmacks Judo Club, said athletes still compete individually, but that medals are given based on how each team of four fares.

“It’s not only their own win that carries them to a gold medal,” said Ockedahl. “It’s their whole team. Out of four, you need a minimum of three wins to advance.”

More than 40 judokas took part in the event, with the majority from the Carmacks Judo Club and the Northern Lights Judo Club.

“I was hoping to get more from the other clubs,” said Ockedahl. “I’m hoping to grow it next year of course.”

Ockedahl said she invited a club from Juneau, Alaska, this year that were unable to attend but hope to make it next year.

The plan for expansion also includes clubs from B.C. and Alberta.

For those that did make the trip to Carmacks, Ockedahl said the tournament was well received.

“It was pretty fun. I got really great feedback from parents and kids and they had a lot of fun. The day was a bit long because we only had one mat surface, which I’m planning on changing for next season,” said Ockedahl.

Judo is still relatively new in Carmacks, but has grown in popularity.

The club started in fall of 2016, and the club has already successfully hosted three tournaments — one individual tournament last season, another earlier this season and this team event.

Ockedahl said the plan is to grow the club further, including involving surrounding communities.

“For next season, we plan on growing. We’re about 25 to 27 kids, so we plan on expanding and offering judo to the communities of Pelly and Faro,” said Ockedahl.

Training sessions on the weekend will allow interested kids from Pelly and Faro to travel to Carmacks, try judo and experience everything that goes along with that.

With the club taking root in Carmacks and the recent completion of a trial program in Haines Junction, judo seems to be an increasingly popular choice for the Yukon’s young athletes.

“I think in the last four or five years, we’ve come a long way,” said Ockedahl. “We’ve redeveloped the structure of it a little bit and I think it’s helped [it] gain more popularity.”

Spreading mostly via word of mouth, judo may not have the same exposure as hockey or soccer, but draws from the same talent pool.

“All the sports all share the same kids,” said Ockedahl. “Kids are being pulled in one direction and the other. That’s OK too — they’re young. It’s not like they’re training for the Olympics right now or anything. We just want them to have a good time and enjoy something different.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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