Judoka wrestles his way to the top

Photo courtesy of Phil Beaupre Mason Bruneau, left, takes down an opponent at the Canadian Judi Championships in Montreal, where he placed third in the U21 division and fourth in the senior division.

Photo courtesy of Phil Beaupre
Mason Bruneau, left, takes down an opponent at the Canadian Judi Championships in Montreal, where he placed third in the U21 division and fourth in the senior division.

After some hard fought battles on the mats at the Canadian Judo Championships last week Mason Bruneau returned home to Hay River with a medal to show for his efforts.

“I really left everything on the mat,” he said. “It was a tough weekend, fighting some of the best competitors in the country and I am very satisfied with my performance. One more national medal in the bag for me!”

Bruneau placed third at the Canadian Judo Championship in Montreal, Que., earlier this month in the U21 division. At the same competition, he placed fourth in his first national fight in the senior division.

“The most rewarding thing I took away from this competition other than that bronze medal and being ranked third in Canada is probably just the experience,” he said. “The chance to fight on the mats at the nationals again, it was a very ecstatic experience.”

As proud as he is of Bruneau’s achievements, coach Mario Desforges said the talented judoka still have room for improvement.

“At this level, he has to understand that he has to work so hard,” Desforges said, adding that a good regimen would see him working out and training twice a day, at least five times a week. “The champion is two days younger than Mason, and Mason has beat him before. The difference is that Mason slowed down and he didn’t.”

The coach said if Bruneau worked hard and focused on the sport, he could one day be winning international competitions.

“I had a serious conversation with Mario at the nationals about my future in the sport and like I said I am very happy with my performance,” Bruneau said. “But Mario wasn’t wrong about the level of intensity at this level in the game and he’s right; if I want to be a gold medallist contender and not just a bronze medal contender I do need to make changes in my training methods, but I did train very hard for this tournament under the circumstances.”

The next steps for Bruneau’s career could potentially involve going away to train full-time, but that will all depend on funding and finances. For now, Bruneau will help his trainer Phil Beaupre run a summer camp for children with a focus on judo, but also encompassing other activities. He said he is looking forward to working with young judokas and building an appreciation for the sport in the NWT.

As for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps, Bruneau has some simple words of advice.

“Make sure if it is your dream and you have the fire to succeed. Don’t let your defeats stop you, instead let your victories motivate you. Pain is weakness leaving your body,” he said. “And of course have fun fighting.”

— Sarah Ladik