Saunders gets a grip on Yukon’s first medal

Amber Saunders flipped her way to Yukon’s first medal of the Games on Wednesday in the judo competition.

Amber Saunders flipped her way to Yukon’s first medal of the Games on Wednesday in the judo competition.

She won bronze in a tough match against Saskatchewan’s Bishop Sommerfeld — her fourth fight of the day.

“I felt pretty confident going into it,” said Saunders, who couldn’t stop smiling after the win.

“I got a few pointers from other people, and I felt like I knew what to do.”

Saunders came out aggressively against her larger opponent, scoring a yuko (minor point) early on and dominating most of the time.

The hometown crowd packed the stands, hanging on every shuffle or grab, spectators shouting out “Saunders!” or “Go Yukon!” from the three levels of the Games Centre as if in a throwback to the glory days of the Roman coliseum.

“The crowd was right behind Amber, and she fed off that,” said Amber’s father Chris Saunders, a longtime judoka who introduced her to the sport.

“She was pretty psyched going out to the mat.”

With just over two minutes to go, Sommerfeld was trying to set up a throw from behind when Saunders countered and ended the match with a backwards throw of her own, for the ippon (full point).

After that, the crowd went wild and Saunders couldn’t contain her elation, as she jumped off the mat into the arms of brother Justin, who competed the day before.

“It’s awesome, I was in this position four years ago in Bathurst — going for bronze, and didn’t win it,” she said after the throng of TV cameras and reporters had cleared.

“I’m glad I won it here, with my friends and parents and brother here in Whitehorse, at the Canada Games!”

She expected Sommerfeld to be tough.

“I’m sure she wanted it just as much as I did, and I wanted it bad.”

Making the win even more impressive is the fact that Saunders moved up a weight class to 70-kilograms, to make room for another Yukon athlete in the 63-kilogram category.

“I’m pretty short, most of the girls I fight are taller and heavier,” said Saunders, who stands 5-4. “There are different moves you can use against a bigger person, I guess you could say that’s part of my style.”

Yukon had four other judo athletes in contention on Wednesday: Kyle Vibe, Montana and Delaney Prysnuk, and Gillian Farnell.

None of the other Yukoners managed to advance to the medal rounds, which was especially disappointing for seasoned veterans like Montana Prysnuk, who placed third at the junior nationals two years ago.

“I definitely could have done better,” Prysnuk said after her two-loss elimination.

“I was really nervous going in, which definitely psyched me out. I just didn’t work out.”

When you’re out there alone on the mat, it’s a mental game, added Prysnuk.

“As soon as you get butterflies, you’ve got to think of something else — getting nervous doesn’t help.”

Luck of the draw played a part as well, as Prysnuk faced the eventual gold and silver winners in her 78-kilogram division.

For the less experienced judokas, it’s more about growing as an athlete than having medals on their necks, said coach Penny Prysnuk.

“We just want them to make a gain in some way, whether it’s lasting a minute or three minutes or making a score — the gains are personal and it’s not always the win,” she said.

“Some of them are young competitors, Kyle has only been in judo for one year  — versus people who been in it for 10 years. He’s moved a long way in a short time.”

“Delaney’s only 15, she did well — she went four minutes against one of the girls that’s going for gold — so that’s very good,” added Prysnuk.

Judo wraps up today with the men’s and women’s team competitions.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read