It’ll be a cross-Canada weekend for the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club.
While Kailey Large and Stephanie Legault are representing Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Games in Corner Brook, Nfld., new clubmate Mark Pivovar will be competing at the Pan-Pacific International Judo Tournament in Vancouver.
And while the Canada Games will be the first high-level competition for the two young girls the Pan Pacific tournament will be just one of many international competitions for Pivovar.
The 21-year-old black belt has finished in the top five in several high-level international competitions and could be a favourite to medal in his weight class this weekend.
“I know I can’t take anything for granted because this is going to be an extremely competitive tournament,” Pivovar said. “Some of the best players from around the Pacific Rim will be there, as well as some of the best Canadians, so I know I’ll be in tough.”
That’s not to say he won’t be in the thick of things — with an impressive training background that includes a year training in Montreal with some of the country’s top judokas, the Regina native has experience to burn.
Which is exactly why he can be considered a threat in any tournament he enters, according to Kosiekan club sensei Cliff Wiens.
“He’s trained with some of the best in the world and that makes anyone that much better,” he said. “You add that to his natural ability and competitiveness and you can see why he’s so strong.”
Pivovar, who is training at the Moose Jaw club while taking classes in civil engineering classes at SIAST, acknowledges that the Montreal experience made a tremendous difference in his judo career.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “A lot of the National team members train out of there and I was able to work with them and learn from them. I no choice but to improve, because everyone around me was incredible.”
His presence at the Kosiekan club is having much the same effect on the local judokas, says Wiens.
“He’s a great asset to the club becuase he’s such a strong player and has a lot enthusiasum for the sport, plus he has a lot of competitive experience,” he said. “Vern (MacDonald) and I teach the ‘old’ judo, where Mark works with a lot of the newer techniques is able to pass that knowledge on to our students.”
Of course, he also brings a competitive edge to the local club — fighting in the men’s advanced black belt division, Pivovar rarely misses the medals in provincial or even western Canadian competition.
“I never go into a competition like this weekend thinking I’m going to win for sure,” he said. “I’m more interested in my personal peformance, giving the best I have every time I’m on the mat. If I can leave a match knowing I performed as well as I can, then I’ll be happy win or lose. That’s my only goal.”
After the Pan Pacific tournament, Pivovar will likely be looking to return to the national championships, where has competed every year since 1993 as a junior before moving to the senior level in 1997 and 1998. But even at that level, the goal remains the same.
“I hope that if I fight my best, it’ll be enough to finish in the medals, but I know it’s going to be extremely tough, like it is every year,” he said.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Feb 19, 1999