The Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club will set a record once they arrive at the Judo Canada senior national championships this weekend.
The club is sending nine members of their club to the national championships in Prince Albert -- the largest group ever to represent one club in the history of the event.
"It's very impressive," said instructor Jim Wiens of the group of competitors. "It's the result of lots of hard work from the guys and a lot of support from the community and the parent's group who help to make it financially possible."
It will be the second year in a row that the Koseikan Club will set a record at a national event. At last year's junior nationals Jeremy Williams and Garth Rivers finished second and third respectively in the men's under-55 kilogram class and were the first teammates ever to appear on the podium together.
Williams, Rivers and Wiens will be joined on the mats in Prince Albert by Josh Wiens, Brian Smith, Dan Orescanin, Derek Porter, Stephanie Legault and Kailey Large.
That group will smash the previous record by close to double. Not counting the national training centre -- which houses the Olympic team -- it is almost unthinkable to have that many national-level judoka all in the same place.
Of the nine, seven are making their nationals debut. Orescanin (under-81 kg) and Smith (under-100 kg) have competed once previously each. Smith lives in Edmonton, but still competes under the Koseikan banner.
Williams and Rivers are both hoping to make the jump to nationals in the under-55 kg category but both have some unexpected complications come up. Rivers is battling his weight, while Williams has a far bigger problem.
Last week Williams woke up to find a boil on the left side of his neck. He had it lanced Tuesday and is now doubtful for nationals.
"I would like to go even though I probably shouldn't," said Williams. "The doctor said I could fight if I bandaged it really good and the surgeon said no."
At the Koseikan dojo, Williams had picked up the nickname 'Sick Boy' -- a reference from National Lampoon's Van Wilder. The good-natured teasing quickly stopped Wednesday once his clubmates realized what the boil might mean for Williams.
Because the wound is still open and because it is right beside his jugular vein, it seems unlikely Williams will be cleared to fight. He is hoping to get a referral for a doctor in Prince Albert and get a decision rendered this weekend.
It would be a blow for the strong group of competitors who could all excel if things fall into place. Despite their inexperience this still could be a breakout year for the Koseikan. This year's nationals features a smaller field than usual. That is, in part, due to Prince Albert's isolation from judo Canada's traditional powerhouses -- Quebec and Ontario.
"It's going to be a smaller nationals than usual," said Wiens. "The Olympic selection tournament (in Mexico City) is on at the same time so the top two guys in each class shouldn't be there. So guys like (Olympic medalist) Nicolas Gill won't be competing."
Wiens said he feels a medal or two is a realistic goal and that no one judoka from the club is a favourite to pull the feat off.
"Any of us could (medal)," said Wiens. "It depends how the draws line up."
Nationals is also a single-elimination event, which differs from the usual double-elimination style that the Koseikan competitors are used to. However, the format could prove to be a benefit.
"If someone gets on a lucky streak, that could be enough," he said. "With single elimination, there can be an upset early on and someone who was favoured to win gold will be out it without getting another chance. All it takes is one throw."
Large is in the women's under-57 kg category and Legault is in the under-63 kg. Both of the Wiens brothers are in the plus-100 kg field.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald May 23, 2003