When Judo Saskatchewan high performance coach Fedor Lazarenko joined the provincial body three years ago, there was little question he was plenty qualified to do the job - a former national champion in three countries, a former European championships medalist and world-renowned instructor and coach.
But now every judoka in the province knows just how good he really is.
Lazarenko took part in a pair of training sessions at the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club this week, his latest visit to the club and part of his province-wide travels to guage the progress of his up- and-coming competitors.
"It's part of the job to go to the different clubs and to see how the kids are improving and how things are going," Lazarenko said just prior to taking to the mats for a two-and-a-half hour training session with the adult class.
"Plus it's a chance to pass on some things I've picked up since I've traveled so much internationally. Like everything, judo is changing more and more all the time and it's something that you have to stay up on, and this gives me a chance to show them some new things."
Those techniques and ideas have served Moose Jaw competitors and those from throughout the province well over the last three years - in addition to putting together one of their best team performances in history at the 2003 Canada Winter Games in Campbellton-Bathurst, N.B., Judo Sask has also seen several of it's athletes take impressive strides at the national and international level.
That's something Judo Sask past president and long-time Koseikan head instructor Cliff Wiens points to as a sign of Lazarenko's influence.
"When you look at what he brings to us, you can really see why he's able to pass so much on," Wiens said. "He's only three years removed from competing and before the Olympics the Austrian national team had him come over and help train their team for a three-week training camp.
"He known all over the world and we're pretty fortunate to have him here working with us."
While Lazarenko is able to influence the top level athletes during various post-tournament team training sessions and specialized training camps, he's quick to point out that success in the sport begins with the coaches at the club level.
"Moose Jaw always has a good club, they're working hard and there are a lot of kids who are getting to the provincial team and national level," Lazarenko said. "They're improving more and more all the time and that's what we want to see. Now I'm here to help show what it takes to get that next step and what they have to do to get there."
And that kind of instruction is more than welcome on the Koseikan mats.
"It's a chance for everyone to see how far you can go, they're so used to seeing (sons and fellow instructors) Jim, Josh and I that when they see someone of Fedor's calibre, a world-class guy, it just opens up a whole new world for them," Wiens said.
"He enjoys coming here, too. Talking with him afterwards, other clubs he's visited have had the same kind of turnout but they just come to do judo and go home, where here it's a lot more fun and that's how we like it."
Ideally the progression judoka have shown locally and at the provincial level will translate into even greater success down the road - and possibly a top-three or better overall performance at the 2007 Canada Summer Games.
"That's what we're hoping for, and with Fedor working with everyone I thing really have a chance to do it," Wiens said.
Step-ins . . . the club's annual Beginner's Tournament will be held this Saturday at the club. Around 70 youngsters from Moose Jaw will take part in the event, with matches starting at 12 p.m.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Nov. 10, 2004