The Fernie Judo Club has been a staple in the community for nearly three decades.
This year, the club sent five athletes to the BC Winter Games, hosted in Penticton from Feb. 25 to 28, including Brianna Falk, Charlotte Higgins, Nathan Bullock, Sam Rybar and Dylan Hutchinson, along with their coach Alisha Temple.
“It was just an extraordinary experience,” said Dylan Hutchinson, who competed in the Under 66 kg category.
His sentiments were echoed by his teammates.
“The people I was competing against were at amuch higher level than I thought they were. They all had more experience but it was a lot of fun,” said Falk.
“It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from it,” added Rybar. “I really like competing. I did win one match. So it was a blast.”
While all three athletes interviewed said they would love to attend the next Winter Games, only Hutchinson will be eligible under the age restrictions. Rybar and Falk both mentioned they would like to continue pursuing competitions in some capacity.
The Judo Club has been active since 1987, and hosts training sessions every Monday and Wednesday evening in their studio under the curling rink. They have a session dedicated to teaching younger athletes the basics and a session for the older athletes. According to Fred Gietz, a founding member of the club, the priority for the club is to teach fun and safety above the practice of judo, to ensure that students are enjoying themselves enough to come back.
Cara Goodman has been training with the judo club for 10 years and is prepping for the upcoming national competition on May Long Weekend. She started with judo because she was looking for a different sport to try.
“When we first moved here, we kind of wanted to try something different other than soccer but I was too young, so I started in Karate,” said Goodman. “We started that for a couple of years until I turned about six. Then I was able to get into judo. It’s been pretty fun.”
Goodman, who turns 17 in April, is hoping to continue competing. She is looking at attending the University of Lethbridge, who have a well-known judo program, after finishing high school in Fernie.
The Fernie Judo Club competes against clubs in neighbouring communities, including Invermere and Creston. For more information, visit Fernie Judo Club’s Facebook page.