A Williams Lake youth judo athlete grappled his way to a bronze medal earlier this month at the Elite 8 Judo Nationals in Montreal.
Kai Richardson, 16, was selected by Team Canada as a wildcard to compete at the event in the under 18, 73-kilogram division on Jan. 11.
In preparation he trained in Burnaby at the provincial training centre alongside Sensei and provincial coach Jeremy Le Bris, plus countless hours at the Williams Lake Judo Club with his peers and Sensei Jeff DiMarco. Richardson said he’s now been training seriously in the sport for the past three years after having seen much success in the chess world as a internationally-ranked youth competitor.
At nationals, Richardson competed in six matches, throwing his way to three wins and three losses to finish with the bronze medal.
“It was a good experience … definitely one of the tougher tournaments I’ve been to,” Richardson said. “When I found out I’d been chosen to go I was pretty excited, and I’d been training hard and looking forward to it. I’ve been working for that goal.”
While at the national training centre in Montreal, Richardson also had a chance to grapple with members of Canada’s Olympic team, which he said was an amazing experience.
“I got destroyed, but I definitely learned a lot,” he said. “And before that I’d been going to the provincial training centre in Burnaby on and off for a couple of months, and that was great for my development. There’s so many great judoka and great competitors there that you can spar against and learn from. Williams Lake is a great club, but not as many competitors.”
For nationals, Richardson said he set the goal of medalling prior to competing.
“I hit my goal, so I was happy, and it was a hard one,” he said.
There, competitors in Richardson’s division were split into two pools where, following round robin matches, the top two seeds from each pool advanced.
“I won my first match, lost my second, and lost my third, but there was a three-way tie for second place in my pool,” he said. “I had to fight two people gain and won both, so I was able to avenge my second loss.”
He then fought the winner of the opposing pool, Yuiy Semenyuk of Ontario, who would, ultimately, go on to win the tournament, which landed Richardson the bronze medal.
“I learned some things about my judo that I need to improve, and I feel like I was able to deal with the pressure a little better,” Richardson said of the experience.
Richardson and members from the Williams Lake Judo Club are now preparing to travel to Kamloops at the end of the month for the provincial championships.
He encouraged anyone interested in trying out the sport to get in touch with, or stop by, the Williams Lake Judo Club.
“We’re always looking for more members,” he said. “Judo is a great sport to get active and healthy.”