Judo teammates taking no prisoners

Lochlan Young and Koen Heitman know the drill.

They're both vying for the same national judo crown that goes to the under-73 kilogram champion and there's a chance the Hart Judo Academy teammates will have to fight each other when they get to the mat this weekend in Edmonton.

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Good friends away from the gym, they know there's nothing friendly about their martial art when it's time to compete. If it comes down to match between the two of them, they're going to have to find a way to hate each other until it's decided.

For Heitman, who moved up this year from the 66 kg weight class, he might think back to what Young did to him two years ago in practice to stir the rivalry in case they face each other this weekend.

"We have our moments where we fight a lot and things go wrong," said Young. "I did break his ankle once, by accident. We train together, we're friends, but as soon as you step on the mat it's like fighting anybody else, no hard feelings when you lose. You just have to do what you have to, to win."

Hart Judo Academy coach Bruce Kamstra says the two 16-year-olds are closely-matched and both are considered medal threats in the 73 kg class, one of the largest categories.

"It''s going to take a lot of hard work (to beat Young)," said Heitman. "Whoever works harder gets it. I'll be thinking about when he broke my ankle. I might break his knee."

Both have gained international experience this year. In March, Heitman competed in the Masters International in Bremen, Germany, while Young attended a two-week training camp in Japan, the birthplace of judo.

"I'm used to fighting in the bigger divisions, too," said Heitman. "When I went to Germany, there were 94 people in my division, that's three times what we get here. It was a huge experience and I fought well. I lost to the guy that won bronze, who lost to the guy who got gold."

Young represented B.C. at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer in March. Each province was limited to one athlete in each weight class at the Games, but there's no such restriction at nationals this weekend.

At last year's Canadian championships in Calgary, B.C. sent eight males in the 66 kg class. Four made the medal round and three of them found their way to the podium. Heitman fought at 66 kg and finished fifth, while Young was seventh in the U-18 class and lost in the U-21 bronze-medal match to finish fifth.

"We have a really strong B.C. team going, with Koen and couple other guys moving up in the 73 kg category," said Young. "So I'm expecting a lot of medals from us."

Twelve Hart Academy judokas are on the national slate this weekend. Also competing will be Davin Greenwood, Aydin Greenwood, Kimiko Kamstra, Andries Van Zyl, Brooke Corbett, Tula Moore, Gabe Paterson, Ioan Frizzell, Asher Young and Maxwell Young.

Corbett is entered in the U-21 women's 42kg class. She won U-21 national bronze last year and claimed bronze two years ago in the U-18 event. The 17-year-old is entered in both age classes this weekend.

"Winning (gold) at nationals has been by goal forever, since I was little, seeing Lavanna Lass and Grace Northrop from my club go to the nationals and do good," said Corbett. "I'm feeling healthy, ready and good."

Tami Goto and Corbin Hilman will represent the Prince George Judo Club.

Goto, 17, has been to several national championships and is qualified for the national team gearing up for the world championships in Kazakhstan in September. She has a lot more experience than Hilman but their weights are the same and that makes them a good match as training partners at club practices.

For Hilman, 13, it's his first time at that level and he's entered in the U-16 -42 kg class.

"I think it's going to be pretty fun, I have friends from the Hart Judo club going there," said Hilman, now in his eight year of judo. "I've been practicing a lot, working on my cardio and everything. (PGJC coach Aline Strasdin) doesn't take it easy on me, she works me hard. Me and Tami work out a lot. She's pretty strong and it's hard to throw her."

Hilman is coming off a solid-gold performance at the Battle in the Peace tournament in Dawson Creek.

"I'm pretty good at defence and I have a couple of good throws," said Hilman.

Competition starts today. Also looming on the horizon for a select few local athletes is the Canada Cup international event in Montreal, June 30-July 2.

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