With just under a week until Canada’s national Judo Championships get underway in Calgary, a local Judoka, Declan Harding, is preparing to represent Spruce Grove for the third time.
At 16, Harding has been practicing Judo for eight years, training out of Spruce Grove’s Ryu Senshi Judo Club. His years of training have paid off in the form of multiple trips to both Canadian championships and international competitions. This year will mark the tird time that Harding has been to the Canadian nationals open championship and his fourth overall Canadian championship.
“The first year I went they were hosting the tournament in Quebec.” said Harding. “It’ll be nice to have them here in my home province where I’ve got a lot of support.”
The upcoming tournament, the open Canadian Judo Championships, will be held from May 25 to 28. Harding says he’s gunning for the podium this time, having not managed to medal at the last two open nationals he competed in.
“The last two I competed in, I didn’t medal, but the last time I went to the invitational national tournament, in Quebec, I walked away with a bronze,” said Harding. “I’m hoping to get on the podium and of course a gold medal would be nice, but just getting to the podium is my main goal.”
Harding, who competes in the under 18, minus 50 kilograms category, said that goal will be a bit harder to reach due to haing put in less training than he typically would over the last number of weeks.
“I haven’t been training as much as I would have liked over the last few weeks as I’ve been playing catch up with my schooling after returning from Scotland,” said Harding.
Harding was in Scotland from April 12-19 taking part in the Sportif International Judo training camp and competition. Harding came close to a bronze medal win in Scotland but said he was pleased with his performance throughout the tournament.
“I fought in the minus 50 kilograms category and I was impressed with how I did. I lost once early on in the tournament to a British fighter and then fought my way back up to the bronze medal match,” he said. “I narrowly lost that fight, but I was happy with how I performed.”
Harding said competing internationally is different compared to fighting here at home, nothing that the Judo community in Canada is a bit smaller and more closely knit.
“In Canada, I’ve fought most of the people I’ll be seeing at nationals, so it’s just a matter of knowing what to do and how to play into their style,” he said. “In the international tournaments, there are a lot of fighters with different styles that I hadn’t seen before.”
To make up for lost training time, Harding’s coaches have been trying to push him to increase the speed of his fighting.
“Our provincial coach has been talking to me about working on the speed of my attacks,” he said. “I tend to wait for the perfect moment before I make an attack, but my coach has been saying that it will be beneficial if I’m a little bit quicker and more consistent with my attacks.”