Yukon judokas have to be quick learners at the Alaska State Judo Championships.
Unlike clubs in Canada, which adhere to rules set by the International Judo Federation, in the States they have their own rules.
“Basically, their rules aren’t the same,” said Yukon’s Shiroumakai club sensei Aaron Jensen. “It’s some of the finer points, some of the sacrifice techniques, some of the makikomi wrap-around techniques that we don’t allow the kids to do here in Canada, they’re fine with.
“It’s a bit of a learning curve. Makes it a little worrisome for the kids. But all and all they did pretty good.”
Despite having to adapt to the U.S.‘s rules, Yukoners won five medals at the 56th annual championship on Saturday in Anchorage.
About 100 judokas from 15 clubs competed at the championships, including seven athletes from three Yukon clubs.
“They went fantastic and the kids had a lot of fun,” said Peter Melanson, president of Judo Yukon and Northern Lights sensei. “The winners won well and the kids who didn’t come out on top learned valuable lessons on what to do for next time. It was an all-around great experience.”
Of the five medals won by Yukoners, two were gold.
Whitehorse’s Cassandra Jensen of Shiroumakai captured gold in the girls U13 under 92 pounds division.
The green belt won her first two fights in under 10 seconds and then her third for gold in under 30 seconds. She performed a yuko throw into a hold on silver medalist Abbi Bridge of Anchorage.
“I guess you could easily say she dominated,” said Aaron.
Jacob Melanson, also of Shiroumakai, fought to gold in juvenile boys under 145 pounds. He cut five pounds the day before the championships to make his weight class.
“His first victory was Friday night, making his weight,” said Aaron. “Unfortunately there was only one other kid his age and weight. It was a smaller turnout than in the past.”
The brown belt, who was Yukon’s only judo competitor at the Canada Winter Games in February, twice defeated Harlan Standish of McGrath, Alaska, for the medal.
“The other kid was good on the ground, but Jacob was able to control him standing,” said Aaron. “I think in Jacob’s mind he won fairly easily, though the other kids almost did choke him out. But he was able to stand him up and throw him for a point.”
Shiroumakai’s Daniel Tonner won two and lost two for silver in intermediate boys under 92 pounds division.
The orange belt suffered a back injury in his second last fight but was back on the mat in under four minutes to fight again and win the silver.
Yellow belt Kenai Bryden of Carcross’ Hiroshikaii club took bronze out of seven judokas in bantam boys under 55 pounds.
Shiroumakai blue belt Shayne Melanson lost two tough bouts, but came away with silver in the two-person juvenile boys under 178 pounds division.
Yellow belt Mackenzie Tonner of Whitehorse’s Northern Lights club dropped two fights, both of which went to judges’ decision after reaching the three-minute match time limit.
Damon Tonner of Northern Lights had a real uphill battle in Anchorage. The yellow-white stripe belt caught the flu before competing. He was also Yukon’s youngest competitor at six, fighting in an under-nine division.
Damon still won one of his four fights.
“He did have one win and fought fantastic,” said Peter. “If he wasn’t sick, he definitely would have won a medal.”
Local judokas will be back in action this Saturday at the Judo Yukon Open Championships in Whitehorse. This year’s championship will include teams from four Yukon clubs as well as from Anchorage, Juneau, Yellowknife and, for the first time, Kelowna, B.C.
“The reason why the Kelowna team is coming is because of our sponsor Air North and their flights from Kelowna to Whitehorse,” said Aaron.
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