Yukon judokas win hardware in Edmonton

Judo Yukon had a strong showing at the Edmonton International Judo Championships from March 11-16. Ten Yukon judokas competed at the event and eight of them returned with medals.

Judo Yukon had a strong showing at the Edmonton International Judo Championships from March 11-16.

Ten Yukon judokas competed at the event and eight of them returned with medals.

The team captured four gold, two silver and two bronze at the giant meet, which featured about 750 competitors.

“They did really well,” said team manager Dan King, “because at an event like that one you never know what can happen.”

The first day was particularly good for the team.

In the under-12 female division, Anya Bellon took gold in the under-33-kilogram category and Cassandra Jensen won the under-40-kilogram category.

“Cassandra just blew through her division,” King said.

Wyatt Burnett, in the under-30-kilogram category, and Scottie James-Shepherd, in the under-55-kilogram category, also took home gold medals in the under-12 male division.

Paige Poelman came away with the bronze in the under-48-kilogram category of the under-14 female division.

Kenny Hyatt fared well in the under-46-kilogram category of the under-14 male division, placing sixth out of 14 competitors.

Day two was less successful, but the team still came away with three medals.

Hannah King won a silver medal in the under-63-kilogram category of the under-16 female division.

King had previously won gold in her divisions the past two years.

In the under-16 male division, Shayne Melanson won a bronze in the under-73-kilogram category while Darrien James-Tizya won silver in the over-73-kilogram category.

Brandon Butler finished just out of medal contention in the same division, with a fourth-place finish in the under-73-kilogram category.

“They were fighting some big kids,” King said.

“The whole team fared well. If they lost a match they didn’t let it affect them.

“They came back to win the next one.”

Part of their success is the elite training program they take part in on Saturdays at Ecole Emilie Tremblay, King said.

That is on top of the twice-weekly training sessions they have at their respective judo clubs.

The elite program is coached by Bianca Ockedahl, who moved to the territory a few years ago after retiring from the Canadian national judo team.

“It speaks to the high-quality coaching of the senseis at the club level and then Bianca takes it a bit further,” King said.

Judo is becoming increasingly popular in the Yukon. Last year, the governing body saw growth in participation at its annual Yukon Judo Championships for the fourth year in a row.

King said younger judokas take up the sport because of its similarity to wrestling. “Once you’re done Grade 7, there’s no more wrestling,” he said.

“So if they’ve been doing that there’s a natural progression to judo if they want to stay in that type of sport.”

Upcoming competitions include the Alaska State Judo Championships at the end of April, the national championships in Quebec in May and the Western Canada Summer Games in Fort McMurray, Alta. in August.

Contact Myles Dolphin at


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