It was a big weekend for judo in Saskatchewan as the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club hosted the first-ever provincial championship for the sport on Saturday.
"An overwhelming success, very much so," said club coach Jim Wiens.
The tournament was actually an annual one hosted by the club, but it was awarded the special designation by the sport's governing body.
"We didn't know how it was going to evolve or be accepted by the membership of Judo Saskatchewan," noted Wiens. "We knew that the executive were really gung ho on it, but I personally thought some people may be reluctant to come because it would just be people from their province. But I was completely proven wrong."
In fact, the tournament boasted 147 competitors - by far the biggest Saskatchewan-only event this year.
"The competition was as good or better than you get at any other competition around," said Wiens.
"It proves that all the rebuilding that has been done in the past few years is really taking hold. We've started to produce so many good, elite athletes in this province."
It was a successful weekend for the local club as well, as 48 athletes participated in the event and won a slew of medals: 12 golds, 12 silvers and 12 bronzes. Six athletes posted fourth-place finishes.
There was an extra-special honour at stake, with the first official provincial titles up for grabs.
"I was kind of proud," said local competitor Symone Beauchamp, who placed first in the novice under-23 kg category.
"Last year I only got second so I wanted to prove to myself that I could get gold."
While being the first provincial champ is certainly a great feeling, a select few of those athletes got some special recognition at Sunday's provincial team practice.
"Ewan Beaton, our provincial coach and two-time Olympian, any time he addressed them it was as 'provincial champion,'" said Wiens. "So you could definitely tell that... those kids had that extra perk in their step."
But besides the medal, the recognition or the warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment, the title of provincial champ comes with something else: a target, as other competitors look to capture the crown for themselves.
Wiens said that can be a good boost to training throughout the year.
"You've got those weeks where you just don't feel like working out, and that's something that a coach can put into your mind (to motivate you)," he said.
"It's that extra incentive to step it up and maintain that designation."
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald March 10, 2009