May 16, 2018 6:18 pm
Updated: May 16, 2018 7:28 pm

Olympic Oval in Calgary transformed to host largest judo championship in Canada

WATCH: The Canadian Open Judo Championships are set to begin Thursday in Calgary. The Olympic Oval will host over 800 competitors in this very popular world combat sport. Kevin Smith has more.

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The Olympic Oval in Calgary is being transformed to host the Canadian Open Judo Championships this week, a four-day event that is open to the public.

Eight-hundred and sixty competitors in four age categories will battle for a national title.

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Calgarian Katsuo Leung, 14, is the best in Canada for his age and is looking forward to the rare opportunity to compete at home.

“It’s really exciting to have the home crowd there cheering for you,” Leung said. “I’m always a little bit nervous, but having family there gives me more motivation to do my best.”

Katsuo’s mom, Yukari, has four boys who all compete in the sport. She says judo has boosted Katsuo’s self-esteem.

Yukari Leung and her son Katsuo at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on May 16, 2018.

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“I think judo has given him a lot–he has been very confident with other aspects of his social life at school,” Yukari said. “I think when you’re an athlete, it’s not just on the mats when you perform; you bring that into your personal life, as well.”

This is the third time the Canadian Open National Judo Championships will be held here in Calgary, but the first time it will be fully integrated with the International Blind Sports Association. Blind Pan-Am judo athletes will be arriving later this week from around the world and will compete on Sunday.

Judo Canada sport director Andrzej Sadej hopes the event increases local exposure to this world famous combat sport that’s been in the Olympics for over 50 years.

“As you know, judo in Canada–and in general in North America–is a pretty minor sport and unknown to most of the population,” Sadej said. “It is a very large sport on the international stage, there’s 199 countries in the International Judo Federation.”

Leung’s goal is to win gold in both his events. Action gets underway Thursday morning.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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