Montreal, May 9, 2017 – The Northwest Territories will be represented by a delegation of five judokas at the Canadian Open Judo Championships presented by biosports.team, which will be held in Calgary from May 25 to 28. Their coach, Mario Desforges, has worked tirelessly to ensure his five protegés are able to compete in the largest national tournament of the year. Practising judo in a remote region comes with its share of challenges.
15-year-old Chloé Malin is one of the NWT’s representatives. Her dream is to someday be selected for the national team. Desforges introduced Malin to judo when she was five years old. Malin developed an intense passion for her sport. Unlike many of her teammates, she has chosen to practise judo exclusively.
“One of the difficulties we encounter in the Northwest Territories is that we have a small population compared to the number of sports on offer. The pool of young people is therefore diluted by the choices available to them and many young athletes practise more than one sport at a time. This makes it harder to develop high-level athletes,” explained Desforges.
Judokas who wish to pursue a career in judo also encounter financial obstacles. It’s not uncommon for them to have to travel five, seven, even ten hours by car to participate in the closest competitions. That’s not to mention the cost of airplane fare, which is sometimes unavoidable.
“We don’t have easy access to a competition circuit that enables young athletes to gain the experience they need to compete against the very best. Also, there aren’t any bursary programs available to provide funding to the athletes. A judo season costs a lot of money when you live in a remote region,” he added.
Despite the challenges, athletes like Chloé Malin are still able to dream of having an international career. Desforges’ daughter Gabrielle made it onto the podium at the 2013 Canadian Championships. Gabrielle, who competed in the U63 kg category, was one of two judokas who made history in the Northwest Territories by bringing home the first-ever national medals.
She was subsequently selected to train at Judo Canada’s National Training Centre in Montreal.
“She proved that it’s possible to be chosen for the national team even if you made your start in a small judo community. She’s a great example for Chloé, who dreams of going as far as she can in this sport,” said Desforges.
In order to enable his athletes to compete at the level of athletes in the Canadian circuit, Desforges set up a sport-study program. The judokas are on the tatamis five days a week and must include three strength training sessions in their schedules.
“The program I set up is a tough one. I want it to be successful. They have to work very hard to be able to win against judokas from elsewhere, but they love it. I don’t have a large group of athletes, but they’re very motivated,” stated Desforges, who is president of the NWT Judo Association.
For the past two years, his judokas have had the opportunity to compete at home. “I created a tournament we call the Arctic Open. It has given regional-level athletes the desire to go further in competition. So we tell them that if they work hard, they can compete in even larger tournaments elsewhere,” explained Desforges.
The young delegation from the Northwest Territories will definitely be one to watch during the 2017 Canadian Open Championships presented by biosports.team. They will be there to have fun and gain experience. According to Desforges, those are the two most important objectives.