It wasn’t quite the start they were hoping for.
Then again, considering who Team Saskatchewan’s opponents were on the first day of the Canada Games judo competition, there can be little question Moose Jaw’s Kailey Large and Stephanie Legault were going to be in tough.
What better way to kick off your first national-level tournament than against fighters from Canada’s judo powerhouse, Quebec?
Large ended up losing by ippon to Alexandra Boulanger in the women’s 48 to 52 kilogram division while Legault, 13, had a more competitive match but lost by ippon to Anne-marie Charbonneau Allard in the 45 to 48 kilogram division.
“She just stepped in and threw me right away, it was over in about 10 seconds,” Large, 14, said about her loss to Boulanger. “It wasn’t a good match for me at all.”
Going into the tournament, both Large and Legault were looking for their team’s match with Quebec to be a difficult one. Their expectations turned out to be true as Quebec ended up winning eight of the nine matches against Saskatchewan — Kim Hardie of Saskatoon was the only judoka from this province to win a match
“They’re always a really strong team so we knew they were going to give us a very tough match,“ Large said via telephone from Corner Brook. “I thought I might be able to do a bit better but she didn’t give me much of a chance.”
According to Moose Jaw Kosiekan Judo club sensei Cliff Wiens, sheer numbers are part of the reason for Quebec’s success.
“You look at Saskatchewan, we have between 600 and 1,000 people in judo and they have more than 10,000. So they have a much larger group to draw the best athletes from,” he said. “It’s the same thing with Ontario and B.C.”
But that’s not to say Saskatchewan’s judo team won’t be able to enjoy success against those provinces.
“That’s the thing about judo, all it takes is an instant to win a match,” Wiens said. “Sometimes all it takes is one good move and it’s over. Anyone can win with the right combination of skill and luck..”
Legault and Large will look to hit the win column in their next two matches, against Manitoba and Newfoundland (Large will sit out the match with the host province due to a lack of competition).
While picking up a few wins and winning a medal is the ultimate goal for the local judokas, Large has set her sites a little lower for the moment.
“I’m hoping to have a closer match, to at least last the whole time limit the next two fights,” she said. “If I can have a good match like that, I’m hoping I can win.”
According to Wiens, Large has met her opponent from Manitoba in the past and should have a realistic shot at victory.
“She lost last time she fought her but it went right to the limit,” he said. “Kailey has improved so much since then that she could dominate that match if things go her way.”
The single loss Monday doesn’t seriously damage Large and Legault’s medal hopes as the fighters are seeded in pools of five with the top three advancing to the medal round.
If the duo can put together a string of successful matches the tide could well turn in their favour.
“They knew going into the Games it was going to be tough but if they can win a couple matches they might be able to get a shot at the medals,” Wiens said.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Feb. 23, 1999