Brendan Yakura is taking Grade 11 classes online while living with relatives in Vancouver.
He’s finding education by computer very challenging, especially since his nine-to-five schooling has been all judo since February.
The smiling 17-year-old former Rep soccer star, downhill/freestyle skier and longboarder is on the B.C. Development #2 Team and doing high performance training at the Burnaby Judo Club. He competes in his fifth nationals next weekend in Calgary.
“The main thing being down here has been upping the training schedule,” said Yakura. “We do lots of weight training and judo training camps. I’m quite a bit stronger endurance-wise, and technically. I’m able to last a lot longer. My coach, Jeremy Lebris, was on the French national team and is very knowledgeable. He’s pretty tough which I like.”
Yakura has pocketed two silver medals at nationals in Quebec and struck gold in the U60 Kilogram class at the 2016 B.C. Winter Games in Penticton. He lost both his fights at nationals last year in Calgary.
“This nationals will give me a good idea of what my next steps in judo will be,” said the 5-foot-6 Yakura, who trains weekends in Abbotsford and Richmond.
As for normal schooling, he’d much rather learn in the classroom.
“It’s tough without a teacher,” he laughed. “Especially math. I had to use YouTube videos to figure out some math problems.”
Yakura, who learned the martial art through the Vernon Judo Club, will be joined at the University of Calgary Olympic Oval by 16-year-olds Avery Collinson and Sydney Grevatt. Yakura and Grevatt bagged B.C. Games bronze medals for the Okanagan zone in the mixed team event.
Grevatt moved to Vernon from Alberta five years ago and sees a lot of her mom Donna Hanson, who doubles as a judo instructor at the Vernon club, where she trained as a kid back in the day.
“There’s no such thing as a mom on the mats, it’s coach,” said the 5-foot-5 Grevatt. “You have to be professional.”
This is Grevatt’s second trip to a Canadian finals. She will stay in Calgary after nationals for a training camp.
“My first was last year in Calgary and I didn’t do so well but I trained differently for this one. I brought the intensity of of my training up so I put in more effort. My goal this year was to medal at larger tournaments provincially and my long-term goal is to compete internationally.”
Grevatt, like Collinson, a Grade 11 Seaton student, plays U16 Rep soccer and lists her mom, a retired RCMP member, as a main role model.
“I was always around the judo club scene. At first I was there because mom was there but then I thought, ‘Hey, I wanna try that.’”
Hanson, in judo for 32 years, likes Sydney’s approach to the sport.
“She has enough drive on her own; I don’t have to push at judo. She’s very coachable. She listens and is very determined. She has actually come a long way. Her level has gone up exponentially. She will be even strong next year. I’m expecting both of them to well at nationals. They’re 16 in a U18 division so they should really shine next year.”
Hanson, who notes the two girls will face the top older fighters from B.C. this year, will be refereeing some matches. She also enjoys Collinson’s attitude.
“She’s very quiet with determination. She doesn’t have an outgoing personality but works extremely hard and has done well.”
Collinson, also 5-foot-5, took up judo in 100 Mile House at age six.
“We were just looking around for a sport to join and my brother Reid and I joined. I liked it right away; I started beating up my brother and even my dad (Ian).”
Collinson, who went 1-2 at the 2016 nationals, mixes technical skills and fitness in Wednesday night training while working on techniques two other nights.
“I row on Swan Lake three or four times a week so I’m pretty tired by the end of the week. This is my third year rowing and it’s similar fitness requirements to judo because of the long sprints and then a quick rest in between. My style in judo is to get in the first attack.”
A former track and field middle distance runner, Collinson often trains with her father, a forester, at the Bella Vista dojo.
“I would like to eventually compete at a higher level and maybe do some refereeing and coaching.”
The nationals will feature hundreds of athletes, including taekwon-do, a new addition this year.