Judo teammates march to Games

The Nanaimo Judo Club is sending three athletes to the Canada Winter Games, which get underway Friday (Feb. 13) in Prince George.

Cheyenne Fiandor

Cheyenne Fiandor

Major medals will be at stake as three Nanaimo judoka hit the mats at the Canada Winter Games.

The Nanaimo Judo Club is sending a contingent of three athletes to the Games, which get underway Friday (Feb. 13) in Prince George.

Braxton Clark, 18, Cheyenne Fiandor, 16, and Vanessa Kruger, 15, all qualified at tryouts in Abbotsford in the fall. A couple of other youths from the club were close to making the team, but still, having three Nanaimo athletes going is an achievement for the club.

“That’s super special, because our teammates, we’re a whole family here,” said Kruger. “It’s like our family’s coming with us to experience the same thing.”

All three have been to judo nationals before, but the Canada Winter Games only come around once every four years.

“It all sort of worked out,” Kruger said. “I thought it was really cool because it’s such a huge event, I haven’t done judo long and I only get one opportunity. I was so excited.”

Wanting to make the most of their chance, the judoka have intensified their training. In addition to hitting the mats four or five times a week, they’re lifting weights and building conditioning by swimming and running track.

The opposition will be challenging – there’s a former world champ in Clark’s weight class, for example – but the Nanaimo athletes are experienced enough to know they can compete with the best.

“I really just try to go out there and try my best and do my best and respect my opponent and also respect myself,” said Fiandor.

Training and preparation are the most important contributors to winning on the mats, she said, and her teammate has a similar view.

“I try to think ahead of my opponent,” Kruger said. “I watch them if they’re fighting before me and try and figure out what they do and then I’ll counter it.”

Clark will have to fend off a variety of styles and try to outmuscle opponents to do well in his division.

The Nanaimo club members want to be in the mix for medals, but mostly, they’ve been looking forward to this week, when it’s game on at the Games.

“It kind of gives you an idea of what it’s going to be like if you want to make it to that next level…” Clark said. “I’m just trying to focus on [judo] and have fun while I can.”


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