Silver win, gold dreams

Hay River Judoka Mason Bruneau poses after winning a silver medal at the Pacific International Open in Vancouver the weekend of Feb. 16.
– photo courtesy of Mason Bruneau

In his first competition of the year, Hay River Judoka Mason Bruneau came away with a silver medal, but that’s bummed him out.
The 17-year-old’s goal is to rank higher in all competitions this year before heading to judo nationals; that way he’ll be prepared.
A blue belt, who has been practising judo for four years, Mason “The Storm” Bruneau said he is focused more on competition than advancing to brown belt. After his silver medal performance at the Pacific International Open in Vancouver, he explained his displeasure.
“I prefer gold,” said Bruneau, taking a break from his class at Ecole Boreale on Feb. 21. “All the competitions I am doing this year are to win gold at the nationals. That is my ultimate goal this year.”
So he’s beefing up his training hours and travelling once every four-to-eight weeks to Montreal: There he trains with Akinori Hongo. Hongo, who currently teaches and trains in Quebec, won two world cup medals for Japan and placed second in the All Japan Championship in 2011.
Bruneau’s main coach, Mario Des Forges – head coach of the NWT Judo Association – said the time and effort is necessary to advance to the next level in the U-21 category. It means hours of commitment and balance between travel, school, training, conditioning and competing.
“He has a good chance at the nationals but the road will not be easy,” said Des Forges. “He can do it, but he needs to take it step by step. Some (athletes) are working out 15-16 hours a week, sometimes eight training sessions in a week. It’s very intense for this level of sport. We are fighting with the best in Canada.”
Des Forges travelled to Hay River this past weekend to teach and keep judokas on track. He said it’s a challenge for youth to balance their dedication to sport as well as their other commitments.
Before the nationals, which will also be taking place in Vancouver, Bruneau will be heading to the Edmonton International Judo Championship in April, and to the Ontario Open in May. At nationals he will be competing against blue to black belts in his age and weight category.
“Last time at nationals I did horribly,” said Bruneau. “I won one fight, but I wasn’t ready. That’s why I am training so hard this year. I didn’t train hard enough. Now I’m warming for the nationals. That’s where all my effort is going.”

— Angele Cano