For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut their sport down, Judo Yukon athletes got a chance to hone their skills outside the territory.
Judo coach Aaron Jensen recalled the rapid end to his touring team’s season in the spring of 2020. Things have returned to some semblance of normalcy as he took five athletes from the Judo Yukon Competition Development team to a training camp in Abbotsford, British Columbia over the first weekend of October.
The camp, run by Judo BC, brought in Judo teams from across B.C. as well as the Yukon contingent and at least one team from Alberta. Jensen said there were about 180 athletes present. Also in attendance were Olympic bronze medalist Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard and Jessica Klimkait who earned a world championship before picking up a bronze medal of her own at this summer’s Olympics.
The Judo Yukon team at the camp was: Andjez Benson, Roman Zazula, Leah Mclean, Jaymi Hinchey and Lia Hinchey. Jensen said the young athletes are all born between 2005 and 2008 and had some Judo experience before the pandemic hit. Jensen hopes to take this competition development team to the Canada Winter Games in 2023.
For the Yukon judokas to be competitive with the rest of the country, Jensen said getting out for training camps and tournaments in B.C. and elsewhere is essential. He said the skill development opportunities at the Abbotsford camp were top notch with the Olympians offering coaching.
Along with the skills taught on the Judo mat, Jensen said the Olympians offer a great example of what can be achieved with hard work and determination.
Jensen said up next for the competition development team will be a late November tournament in Steveston, B.C. They are also planning another trip south for Judo BC’s winter camp between Christmas and New Years.
As the competition development team prepares for the Canada Winter Games, Jensen said there are also opportunities for newcomers to get into the sport and for adults involved in it for a long time to stay on the mat. Jensen recently took over some commercial space, moving his program out of rented school gymnasiums. He offers four hours of classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights with sessions dedicated to kids entering the sport, the competition development team and adults.
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Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com