Kai Richardson (in the blue) fights against his opponent at the BC Winter Games qualifiers for judo this weekend in Prince George.

A fighting chance

A young Williams Lake fighter hopes to qualify for BC Winter Games

Judoka, or students of judo from Williams Lake put their skills to the test this weekend at the BC Winter Games qualifiers in Prince George.

Kai Richardson, although fairly new to the sport of judo, was one of five students who went to the qualifiers. He may be new to judo but he is by no means new to competition.

In fact, Kai is perhaps best known for his prowess in the game of chess. For the past four years, he has been the top ranked chess player for his age group in British Columbia. Kai is only 14 years old and currently holds the number 12 ranked spot in all of Canada, says his dad Scott Richardson.

He also competes extremely well in other forms of martial arts. On October 21, he attended the Western Canadian Martial Arts Championships in Richmond where he won two gold medals in point fighting as well as the title of Super Grand Champion in kata karate.

According to Lee-Ann Lainchbury, owner of Shogun Martial Arts where Kai has trained for the last four years, “this is Kai’s second time within the year winning Super Grand Champion in two different tournaments.”

She says, “in this world where people tend to like to take the easy route, Kai is just the opposite. He loves a challenge and always strives to do his best.”

This sentiment is echoed by his judo sensei, Jeff DiMarco from the Williams Lake Judo Club.

As a student, he describes Kai as “super keen and very gung-ho and co-ordinated.”

DiMarco has been working with Kai since he started judo in January. In under a year, he has already become a very proficient fighter.

“He’s committed and dedicated and he wants to do something with judo so it’s great to see someone like that, with enough drive to want to go out there and compete and do well.”

And that is exactly what Kai was doing this weekend in Prince George, competing for a spot in the BC Winter Games.

Judoka from Prince George and surrounding area competed against others from their geographical zone on Saturday. Kai had only one opponent in his category, another Williams Lake fighter named Tristan Pelchat-Henri, who he defeated twice.

Although normally a first place finish would guarantee you a spot in the games, it isn’t so simple this time around, says DiMarco who was in Prince George this weekend coaching the five students from Williams Lake.

“They should get to go to the games but there’s some other little stipulation there from Judo BC about a tournament they were supposed to go to in February, so I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work.”

He refers to a sort of pre-qualifier in February that no one from the club was able to attend.

Although he won all his matches, Kai will have to wait to hear whether he has secured a spot in the Winter Games or not. DiMarco notes that even if the first place finish isn’t enough, there are always wild card spots available on the team.

“The Games are a good time so if they can get there, they’ll have a lot of fun,” he says of the team of Williams Lake judoka.

The 2018 BC Winter Games take place in Kamloops on Feb. 22-25 and will see the best up-and-coming young athletes aged 9-18 compete in various sporting events.

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Kai Richardson (in blue) struggles on the floor with his opponent in a judo match for the BC Winter Games qualifiers. Photos submitted

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