The 2013 Sr. National Judo Championships were held in Virginia Beach, VA. this past weekend (April 13-14, 2013). We arrived in Virginia Beach Friday afternoon, April 12 for registration, the coach’s meeting, and the draw for the Senior divisions. The draws for the visually impaired, brown belt, and masters divisions took place after the senior session had concluded on Saturday.
As I said in my last post, I have always enjoyed attending Sr. Nationals as it is the premier US tournament and showcases most of the best US athletes fighting for the title of National Champion. While the divisions still are not as big as they were even back when I was starting to compete at nationals, many of the divisions have been getting bigger over the past few years and will hopefully continue to grow. While I like the Virginia Beach area, I feel the attendance would be better overall if Nationals were consistently held in easier to get to locations. The top players will still go because they are fighting for points but the lower level “up-and-coming” players, and also masters and visually impaired players would be more likely to attend if the flights were cheaper and more convenient.
Regardless of the location, I love going to Nationals. As I said before it brings out many of the best players and makes for an exciting tournament, plus I’m just a “judo bum'” at heart and love the atmosphere that exists at the bigger tournaments. I will admit, I also love traveling to the different cities and staying in hotels and all that goes with it.
As much as I enjoyed the tournament I will say that I was terribly disappointed in the number of visually impaired athletes who showed up for the tournament. We have far more visually impaired athletes on our list than we have ever had before. But having them on paper will not help our program grow, we need them on the mat, training and competing. People tell me all the time that they want to make the Paralympic team, or win a Gold medal like I did. What I should start telling people when they say this to me is “Prove It!” I have no problem with people, visually impaired or not, who just want to learn judo and be recreational athletes, but if you say you want to be a champion, you have to give everything you have to make that a reality. In my dojo, if you are just interested in being a recreational athlete but are willing to work hard in practice, great, but if you want to travel to tournaments with the Paralympic Judo athletes and coaches, I expect you to be serious and to do everything you can to attend every event possible, including tournaments and training camps as well as your own dojo’s practices.
My sensei use to tell me my biggest problem is that I expect everyone to want “IT” as badly as I did. She was talking about people just coming to practice, and reminded me that not everyone wants to be a national or Paralympic champion like I did. When it comes to my dojo I agree and I still have that problem, but if you want to make a national team in either sighted or VI judo, you have to want it more for yourself than I want it for you or at least as much. You cannot be successful if I want it for you more than you want it for yourself! I also wanted to point out that VI judo is real judo and our top athletes train hard and do take this seriously. We currently have three guys living and training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I think a lot of people think they will just show up and walk on a team or go a tournament and just walk through the divisions. This is not the case, and if you show up with that mind set you will be in for a rude awakening! That is what I found out when I came home from my first VI training camp with a fractured rib and badly bruised ego! But, that inspired me to work harder to be as good as those guys who had battered me for the 4 days I was there. So, I encourage you, if you are a VI athlete or a coach of a VI athlete and you aspire to the Paralympic Games, don’t come in as a “tourist” come into it prepared to give it everything you have.
Sorry for the rant, but I had to get that off my chest. Now, I will end with saying I am very proud of how hard everyone from Denver Judo fought. I have posted pictures through this blog that do not necessarily apply to the content but I wanted to share them and I’ll share how our club members did below.
- Ryan Jones – 2nd in VI – 81kg – 9th in Senior Men -81kg
- Alyssa Gilkey – 2nd in Senior Women – 78kg. She did very well and I was proud of how hard she went after 2012 Olympic Gol,d Medalist , Kayla Harrison in her only loss on the day.
- Greg Sadar – 3rd in Masters M3 and 3rd in the Masters under 50 Open division.
- Laurie Pokin – 1st in VI 63kg
- Kedge Zawack fought hard in a tough 90kg division and Men’s Open but did not place.
As always, I am very proud of our athletes and hope to do more road trips to tournaments. I am very big on competition and love winning but some of my fondest memories from judo are not just the medals and tournaments but traveling with my teammates. Kedge and I were talking a week or so ago and agreed that the road trips crammed in a van traveling for hours with or college teams are some of our best memories.
Thanks for readying,
Talk to you soon…