Alicia Briggs, a resident of Lac la Hache, made the long trip to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, bringing her judo skills to the international stage.
The West African country played host to the Jeux de la Francophonie (Francophone Games), featuring athletes from around the French speaking world. Briggs competed for Team Canada in the under 57 kg senior women’s category.
“Generally speaking, it was a pretty neat experience,” says Briggs.
While she lost the bronze medal match, ending in fifth place, she says overall the experience was worthwhile.
“Abidjan and the cultural experiences and in general being there with the other teams from Canada — it was a sports and a culture games — so I got to see a lot of crazy things I’m not used to seeing, so it was a lot of fun,” she says.
“The little bit of disappointment comes from the fact that I felt I was strong within my group of athletes and that I didn’t reach the podium would be the source of the disappointment,” she says.
In her first match, Briggs went up against a competitor from Romania.
“I lost that match by a small point so I would say it could have gone either way. It was a very close match,” she says.
From there, Briggs handily won a match against a competitor from Cameroon, ending the match in less than the allocated time.
Her next game was up against a competitor from Mali.
“Again, I won by a full point, but it was a little bit of a closer match,” she says.
In her final match, she went up against a competitor from Mauritius for the bronze medal.
“I felt strong in the match and I made an error so she scored on me and I wasn’t able to get the point back before time ran out,” she says.
Still, aside from a little culture shock and the loss, Briggs says she enjoyed the experience.
“The people were incredibly welcoming, everyone said hi and wanted to talk,” she says. “The other thing that surprised me a little was they loved Canada unanimously, which was interesting.”
While there was some political tension in Abidjan at the time, Briggs says she never felt at risk.
“There was a ton of security in the village, we had a police escort everywhere,” she says.
“Generally, everything was colourful and warm and welcoming,” she says.
The team took some time to visit Grand-Bassam, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and some of the more rural areas outside of the city, including a crocodile sanctuary.
The fresh bananas, pineapple and mangoes she could buy on the side of the road “wrecked the fruit at home,” she says.
Still, what stood out to her was the friendliness of the volunteers.
“There were tons of people around all the time in these bright coloured shirts so you could tell them apart and everyone said hello,” she says.
“There are probably a hundred pictures of me with different people in Abidjan so that for me really stood out.”
Briggs has trained in southern Alberta as well as at the National Training Centre in Montreal. She’s back in Lac la Hache for now but has yet to see what the future holds.