A glance at the athletes working through their paces on the mats told all you needed to know about how hard Judo Sask provincial team coach Fedor Lazarenko was working the troops.
While the conditions in the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club might have been a touch warm, the fact that every member of the provincial team taking part in the recent elite training session was drenched with sweat was just as much a part of Lazarenko's taskmaster routine as anything else.
Even the former European champion himself looked as if he'd been through the ringer - and it was all by design.
Lazarenko and the Saskatchewan senior men's and women's provincial teams - including Moose Jaw competitors Josh Wiens, Jeremy Williams and Dave Guthrie - were going through their final group training session prior to the national championships May 22-23 in St. John's, Nfld. And the hard work was designed to see just where the local contingent was in their training.
"Things like this also give me a chance to see their conditioning, how they're fighting, so I know how to coach them, when to push them," Lazarenko explained shortly after the four-hour session concluded. "It was a chance to see where they are and what they can do because after this practice there isn't much more time, so this is the last one where I have a chance to show them things and tell them about any rule changes and things like that."
Based on what he saw through the training session, Lazarenko is hoping for an impressive run from his contingent, especially with the steady improvement they've shown even from the beginning of the year.
"They look very good, they're in better condition, they have good timing," he said. "It depends on the day how well they'll do, but the team looks very good right now and that's a good sign. I'm really pleased."
Lazarenko's praise extended to the local fighters, adding that the potential is there for a possible medal or two if everything falls into place.
"It has to be your day, too, sometimes in other sports you can make a mistake and still be an Olympic champion," he explained. "In judo, you make a mistake and it's over. You have to be sharp, you have to be focused, and that's the key to winning. They'll have to be ready to go and know how to build up to their day.
"But they're looking good, and with a little bit of luck you never know."
Overtime . . . the Koseikan Judo Club will officially wrap up their season with their annual awards banquet Friday at the Eagles Hall. Moose Jaw native Scott Schultz of the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be the guest speaker.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald May 12, 2005