A Sugar Cane resident and Williams Lake Indian Band councillor grappled his way to a silver medal this month at the BC Open Judo Championships in Vernon.
Lennard Supernault made the trek to the Okanagan April 5-6 for the event, joining hundreds of judo athletes from throughout the province for the annual spectacle.
Supernault, who recently acquired his green belt, competed in the open division in newaza (ground work), among roughly 15 participants, where he battled his way to the semifinal and, ultimately, the championship after competing in the tightly-contested round robin on the opening day.
“It was just a really great tournament,” Supernault said, the only lakecity judo athlete to compete. “And a great experience.”
It was Supernault’s first time back on the mat in an actual competitive tournament since a knee injury sidelined him in December of 2017.
“It was a tough year for me,” he said, noting he was also battling through anxiety and some depression, however, added finding his footing once again through the sport of judo helped bring him through some challenging times.
“We’re off to a great year so far. For me, one of my avenues dealing with mental health has been to compete, and I’ve used it to help get my life on track, and having motivation to eat properly.”
Supernault made a New Year’s resolution in January to get back in shape, and to get back on the mat.
And with the help of Sensei Jeff DiMarco and the members of the Williams Lake Judo Club, and the support of Shin Bu Kan Judo in 100 Mile House — two clubs Supernault currently trains with — he recovered from his injury, regained his fitness and got back into the sport.
“Once I decided to get back on track it was pretty easy to pickup where I left off,” he said.
“Considering I had a year off I actually felt pretty good at this tournament. And there were probably about 10 to 15 people there from the 100 Mile club, and everybody from there was cheering for me. It was amazing. There was huge, huge camaraderie.”
He said at the tournament he was challenged against competitors who had their green belts and above with plenty of experience.
The semifinal went almost the full five minutes, but Supernault said he managed to win by pinning his Kamloops opponent during the last few seconds of the match.
“That guy was about 250 pounds,” he said. “He was big and strong.”
In the finals, Supernault was matched up against another Kamloops competitor — this time, a brown belt.
“He was very high level and he was able to submit me,” Supernault said. “He was a very tough, big guy, but those are the most memorable moments: competing in the finals, and I very much surprised myself making it there.”
Off the mat, Supernault said since turning his life around and getting sober five years ago, he’s dedicated himself to being a positive role model for youth in his community.
“That’s where I want to be working in the future: using sports to work with at-risk youth. I was working as a youth worker for the Williams Lake Indian Band until January, and now I’m working on starting my own business to become a motivational speaker and cultural presenter. That’s the track I’m on now.”
He said he’d like to share his First Nations culture, as well as incorporate martial arts, and visit schools in the district, for speaking engagements.
“My message is: follow your passion and it can take you anywhere you want to go,” he said.
Supernault is now preparing for the Canadian National Judo Championships coming up in May in Edmonton.
“Our motto in martial arts: it doesn’t matter if you place first, second or third. If you show up to compete you’re already a winner.
“So I’m going to do my best and have a detachment from the final outcome.”