Stephanie Legault and Kailey Large are headed to Newfoundland and they're not that different from the explorers who named the province.
The two Moose Jaw Koseikan Jdo Club members are heading into uncharted territory.
Legault and Large will be rookies among the 16-member Saskatchewan delegation competing at February's Canada Winter games in Corner Brook, Nfld. They qualified for the competition by winnning their respective weight classes at last month's trials in Watrous.
"They'll be up against some pretty tough blackbelts and athletes who are very experienced at that level," said provincial coach Ewan Beaton, a two time Olympian who put the local judokans through their paces earlier this week. "At the same time, there will be people who haven't had that experience, either."
Legault, 13, and Large, 14, are both green belts and both are at the young end of the Games' age limits (13-16). Some of the older competitors will have an advantage in strength in addition to experience, said Beaton.
"As soon as they made the team, we put them on a strength program. Physical strength and conditioning are absolutely key to our sport. Without those, you won't have any success performance-wise."
This past weekend, the duo had a successful warm up in Winnipeg at the Manitoba Open which attracted competitors from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Eastern Ontario.
Legault placed second in the under-48-kg, while Large was third among under-52-kg competitors.
"I got to see one of the girls I'm going to fight at the Winter Games," said Large. "In Saskatchewan, there's usually no one in my weight category, so I have to fight Stephanie who is in the one below."
Legault who won gold last February at the Saskatchewan Winter games in Nipawin, said having to compete against Large has helped both of them improve. They have also been grappling older members of the local club to prepare.
"They're both very dedicated to the plan we have set forth and they're working very hard which is a key factor no matter what the sport," said Beaton.
Based on last year's nationals, Beaton expects Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia to field strong teams.
"From what I've seen of judo in Saskatchewan, we produce good individuals but it's really hard to produce strong teams. . . just because of numbers," he added.
Judo Journal. . . Kailey Large's father, Jim, will also be attending the Games as head coach of the women's hockey team. However, the two aren't likely to cross paths because judo is scheduled for the first week and hockey goes the second week.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Feb. 1999