Athletes from Canada’s Olympic judo team are in Lethbridge this summer as they use the city’s training facilities to prepare for the upcoming summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Officials say Lethbridge was an easy choice as one of the few places in Canada where the nine world-class athletes could safely train.
“For us to actually have them at the club, it’s a fantastic opportunity,” said Ewan Beaton, the coach for the Judo Canada Regional Training Centre in Lethbridge.
Lethbridge Sport Council executive director Susan Eymann says it’s not the first time the city’s judo community and facilities have been in the spotlight.
“The Lethbridge Judo Club has been known nationally and internationally for decades,” Eymann said.
Team Canada officials say the weeks of training they’ve gotten in Lethbridge facilities have been crucial.
“We had no access to any gym, no access to dojos,” said Sasha Mehmedovic, the senior national coach for Judo Canada.
“Here, combat sports are permitted to train, so we took that opportunity. We made an agreement with the Lethbridge Judo club and now that we’re out here, I think for the athletes it’s super important to be back to a regular routine. That means a lot to us.”
Team members are following strict protocols for isolation, only interacting within their own “bubble.”
This means fewer options for opponents during practices, but the judokas say they have bigger worries.
“A main concern of the group is not knowing what’s ahead at the moment,” said Olympic bronze medallist and Team Canada judo athlete Antoine Valois-Fortier.
Team officials say the athletes may be back again for another few weeks of training, but are hoping restrictions are lifted enough to train closer to home.
“Potentially, our season could start again in September,” Mehmedovic said. “And we want to make sure we’re ready for that.”
Lethbridge judo officials say it’s a point of pride for the whole city.
“They’re happy to be here, they’re happy to do their sport,” Beaton said. “And again, it’s one year to the Olympics, so this can be part of their journey to the Olympics and some of them will look back at this time and say, ‘That was an important time in my success at the Olympic Games.'”
Team Canada athletes training in Lethbridge:
- Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard, 2016 Olympian, Ranked #9 in 63kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Ecaterina Gucia, 2016 Olympian, Ranked #26 in 52kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Jessica KlimkaI, Ranked #2 in 57kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Antoine Bouchard 2016 Olympian, Ranked #33 in 73kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Antoine Valois-Fortier, 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Ranked #5 in 81kg in the Olympic/World Ranking (Two time Olympian)
- Arthur Margelidon 2016 Olympian, Ranked #4 in 73kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Mohab Elnahas, Ranked #44 in 90kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Shady Elnahas, Ranked #7 in 100kg in the Olympic/World Ranking
- Zack Burt, Ranked #43 in 90kg in the Olympic/World Ranking