The medal count in Sochi wasn’t the only hardware on the minds of young athletes and sports fans in British Columbia when the 2014 Winter Olympics closed on Feb. 23.
B.C. had its own closing ceremonies that day, as more than 1,300 competitors representing eight zones throughout the province wrapped up three days of competition in Mission for the 27th BC Winter Games – a large multi-sport amateur event that runs every two years.
Paige Hall, 15, Reid Collinson, 13, and Chris Cruickshank, 13, from the Kokoro Judo Club in 100 Mile House competed as members of the Cariboo-North East (Zone 8) judo team, which finished first in team competition on Feb. 22.
Local coach Ian Briggs was in charge of the Zone 8 judo team in Mission. He says the atmosphere there was hyped, and it feels good to win gold as a team.
“You get performances from kids who came out of nowhere [during the team event]. We had a lot of fun.”
Zone 8 captured seven medals in Judo, and 38 in total – 15 gold, 11 silver and 12 bronze – throughout 18 different events.
Hall, who won gold at the 2012 Winter Games, captured silver in the under-48 kilogram women’s category on Feb. 21.
Samantha Pignatelli, representing Fraser Valley (Zone 3), beat Hall to win gold.
“[Hall] got caught on the ground by a strong girl,” Briggs explains.
“She was superior to [Pignatelli] standing. But she caught her. At this level of competition and the intensity and everything that’s at stake, anything can happen. We had a lot of upsets on the weekend.”
Collinson usually competes at 38 kg, but had to compete at under-46 kg with bigger opponents because there wasn’t a smaller division for him.
Collinson, who finished eighth, is a technically sound fighter, but the weight differential was too much to overcome, Briggs says.
“He fought well and hard, but they were just so much bigger and stronger…. As soon as they got him to the ground, they overpowered him.”
Cruickshank finished ninth in the under-50 kg category. It was his first time at the BC Winter Games, and he’s been training at Kokoro for two years.
Briggs says his student was disappointed, but he shouldn’t have been. He was there to develop and gain experience, which he did.
“For him, I think it was a good success. He’s fighting kids that have been in [judo] longer.”
The coach says he learned something at the BC Games he will teach at the local judo club. That is, if you’re fighting for something or someone other than yourself, your performance is going to be better.
“The message to my kids is going to be, don’t think about winning the match for you. Think about something else.
“Give yourself some external motivation. Whether it’s for your parents, or your coach, or team, or whatever it is.”
Many former BC Games competitors have gone on to excel on the world athletic stage, according a news release by the BC Games Society. Alumni who represented Canada at the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are hockey players Jamie Benn and Carey Price, speed skater Denny Morrison, skiers Kelsey Serwa and Georgia Simmerling, bobsledder Justin Kripps, and Paralympians Matthew Hallat and Josh Dueck.