It's not that Moose Jaw's Nancy Jewitt-Filteau is old.
It's just that, well, she's 34 - and she's still willing to travel the globe, inflicting pain and good-natured suffering on those she encounters.
"The people on the national team call me mom," says Filteau, a national judo powerhouse and aspiring Olympian. "At first, it was a little bit tough because of the age difference. But they've grown to accept me. They understand where I'm coming from, and vice-versa. I guess it depends on what's old. Some people say I don't even act my age."
Jewitt-Filteau is already a provincial judo legend. She competed at the national championships - and won six titles - between 1977 and 1987. She travelled the world, winning the Pan-American judo championships in Mexico City in 1984.
Then she retired - only to change her mind seven years later.
She has unfinished business; a nagging desire to compete in the Olympics. So the 1992 inductee into the Sask Sports Hall of Fame returned in '93, with the blessing of husband Ron.
And the cats, the dog, the hedgehog and the kids. Tyler is seven, Justin is three.
"My husband is a big asset; a big help," says Jewitt-Filteau, who works as a health and animals inspector with Agriculture Canada. "We've learned how to balance everything - if there is a little slack, he'll pick it up, and vice versa. But some days it's really hectic and we wonder how we even survived.
"When people talk about a t.v. show, I'll go 'what?' It plays in the corner, I turn it off when I go to bed, and it comes on magically when the kids get up. I have very little t.v. time."
The family moved from Saskatoon to Moose Jaw in September. Jewitt-Filteau logged plenty of air time in 1995, competing at the Pan-Am Games in Argentina (she placed third), the world championships in Japan (12th), the U.S. open in Macon, Ga. (fifth) and the Austria Open (seventh).
Her goal is clear - she wants to cap her career with an appearance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Jewitt-Filteau stumbled last week, when she entered the national championships ranked number one in the plus-72kg category and finished third. Moose Jaw's Steve Hansen also competed.
"Usually I'm as sturdy as a mountain goat," she said of a costly opening loss that saw her get thrown 30 seconds in. "But I forgot to take my mountain-goat feet to Sept-Iles."
The dream's not dead, however - she can qualify at a fight-off June 1 in Montreal.
"It'll be tough (if Atlanta doesn't pan out)," she says, "I've devoted a lot of time and had a lot of support from my family and friends."
"That's one of the important parts about sports. You get in there, you learn how to set goals, whether it's learning how to do a throw or fighting in the Olympics. It sure would be nice to make that pedestal, too."
She likely won't have to worry about staying injury-free heading into the Montreal fight. Remarkably, Jewitt-Filteau has suffered just two broken fingers - and no other serious mishaps - during her lengthy career.
"You've always got to go to the bathroom," she says. "That's a natural. Ask anybody. But my attitude is - I've got good Judo, I've got good break-falls, and because I've never been hurt, I'll go in there with a very positive attitude. I do not know if there is fear. Maybe nervous, but not actual fear."
Jewitt-Filteau grew up in Webb, 20 miles east of Swift Current. She started judo at age 11 - "I liked beating up boys," she says with a laugh - and was inducted into the Swift Current Eagles Hall of Fame in 1979.
Jewitt Filteau, now a member of the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club, was named Judo Saskatchewan's female athlete of the year at Saturday's awards banquet in Regina. She also nabbed the honour last year.
"I try to fight really relaxed and have fun," she says . "That's the important part with any sport, is you should be having fun.
"I'm a very positive attitude person. I do my mental imagery and go from there."
Then there was this talk I had with my grandmother after an easy win as a child.
"I was being a cocky kid, saying 'I whipped her ass', "Jewitt-Filteau recalls. "My grandma sat me down and said 'now Nancy, you've got to remember that somebody has to lose and somebody has to win. You won't always be able to win.' That went right to the heart."
And stayed there.
"I like the camaraderie, and it helps you set goals," she says. "It's not a cliquey sport - people are very open to other people coming in. Judo people are very friendly and outgoing; sort of one big happy family."
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald April 30, 1996