A recent trip to a Winnipeg judo tournament was a successful one for Judo Saskatchewan - and for the four Moose Jaw athletes on the team.
"Our athletes, particularly our Moose Jaw ones, did so well," said Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo coach Jim Wiens. "They didn't let the (pressure) of being at a very big tournament get to them at all... and the results speak to that."
Haley Walz, Brianna Walz, Rebecca Hanson and Adam Langdon travelled with the provincial team to the Inner City Open, a tournament that featured strong competition from Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario.
Hanson had the top showing for the Moose Javians, finishing first in her 44-kilogram division. Haley Walz placed second in the above-63 kg category, while Brianna Walz was second in the 40 kg group.
Hanson's gold finish was even more impressive considering the competition.
"I think it was even a little tougher (than what we expected)," said Wiens. "Every win that she had was against somebody who was a higher belt than she was. Plus the fact that it was a combined division between the minus-40 and minus-44 kg divisions. So she was a lighter competitor in the category."
Aside from the success of the local athletes, the provincial team as a whole did quite well. The group of 19 picked up five gold medals, six silvers and five bronzes in total.
The return of provincial coach Ewan Beaton - for whom the tournament represented his first official trip as coach - has already had an effect, according to Wiens.
"It's impressive how many of our athletes from throughout the province did so well," he said. "The effect that Ewan has had in the short time that he's been back working with them just speaks volumes to his talents and abilities as a coach."
For his part, Beaton was pleased with his athletes.
"Overall it was a good performance by the team," he said in a press release. "All of the athletes worked hard and learned as the day progressed."
Learning and experience was an important part of this developmental competition.
"This is the first time (the athletes) went to a big competition like this as part of the provincial team," said Wiens.
"They realize now that what they're learning now - both with the club and with their provincial team training - is what they're going to need to... compete at that level and advance beyond."
The experience gained from the Winnipeg trip will help the athletes at the judo junior nationals, only a few months away in July.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald February 18, 2009