on October 21, 2010 by test_editor in Archive_2010, October, Print Articles, Comments Off

October 21, 2010: Local Judo Athlete Plays On

Local Judo Athlete Plays On
By Jude Haynes

What do Pierre Trudeau, his  children and Brian Mulroney’s  children have in common with  an average Canadian named  Tony Walby? They all practiced  judo at the Takahashi Dojo on  Melrose Street.
It’s safe to say that most  Canadians know who the  Trudeaus and the Mulroneys  are. But to a lesser extent, Walby  is also publicly known.
A competitive judo athlete,  he was recently featured in the  Ottawa Sun after winning two  gold medals at the Pan Am  Championships this past Labour  Day weekend. What made winning  those medals even more  interesting is the fact that he’s  legally blind and he dominated  over his sighted competitors.
Walby started judo training  when he was seven and recalls  his very first competition was  when he was about eight or nine  years old. His first major international  competition was when  he was about 13 or 14.
He’s won 12 senior national  medals and was the senior heavy  weight national champion in  2008. He joined other high level  judoka who’ve put their gies on  the mat of the Takahashi dojo,  and made history in the sport  both in Canada and abroad.
Phil Takahashi, son of dojo  founder Masao Takahashi, was  a three-time Olympian and  world medalist. His younger sister,  Tina Takahashi, was  Canada’s first woman’s judo  Olympic coach. She and  Canada’s first woman’s judo  Olympian, Sandra Greaves,  trained at the dojo for the 1988  Seoul Olympics.
Walby expressed how he felt  when Phil Takahashi won his  first world medal. “I’d been in  the club just under a year when  he won that gold medal and it  was sort of an awe-inspiring  thing to see,” he said.
He also remembers being inspired  when Tina Takahashi and  Greaves trained at the dojo.  “Training with them as a 13, 14  year old kid was great because  you see how great they can do  and you’re like I can throw this  person, I can throw this person,  I can do it,” he recalled.
Walby credits Tina Takahashi  as the reason he became involved  in judo in the first place.  He said she was a student teacher  at his school and she ran an afterschool  program, which he joined.
Canadian judo Olympian  Nicolas Gill has been a great  influence and also rival and he  caused Walby’s most negative  experience in his long judo career.  “I retired from competition  in ’98, mainly because I couldn’t  keep up with the top rank guy; I  couldn’t keep up with Nicolas  Gill,” Walby said. “In my head I  couldn’t beat him, so if I can’t  beat him in my head, I can’t beat  him on the mat. So, I retired and  I’ve always regretted giving  up,” he added.
But that retirement only applied  to competitive judo. Walby  continued to train in the dojo  every day. Two years later, he Continued on page 20
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Judo athlete
was back on the judo competition  circuit, but in a different weight  class from Gill.
He continued to compete until he  won the Nationals in 2008, which  he said was one of his most memorable  moments in judo. He was 35  at the time and he said he was one  of the oldest men on the mat, almost  twice as old as other competitors.
After winning the Nationals in  ’08, he retired from competing again,  and like the first time, he came out of  retirement two years later.
“Earlier this year I found out that  my visual impairment qualifies me  to compete for our national visually  impaired team and possibly have a  shot at the Paralympics. So it wasn’t  hard to jump back into competing,”  he explained.
Walby said winning a Paralympic  medal would make him feel that he  has accomplished all of his goals.  After that, he plans to retire from  competing for the final time, anticipating  that his age and sport injuries  will degrade his performance.
After his final retirement from  competing, Walby said he will stay  involved in Judo. Coaching is another  aspect of the sport he really  enjoys, so he’ll focus on that.
He also wants to promote judo  among Canada’s visually impaired  population. He said it’s the only  martial art that is fully suited to visually  impaired people. Because  there’s a lot of grabbing, gripping,  grappling and touching, it’s a sport  with possibility for the blind to  compete along with the sighted.
“The one thing that I say to everyone  that I coach is that success is  not winning and losing. Success is  being better today than you were  yesterday,” he said.

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