Kelowna's Hubble golden at judo worlds
When Kathy Hubble attended a practise session last August at the Kelowna Judo Club, she had no idea it would lead to something far grander than an evening of exercise and camaraderie.
A little more than a year later, the 45-year-old Kelowna woman is a world champion.
Hubble, who returned to competition last fall after a 24-year absence, captured a gold medal in the women's masters division at the International Judo Federation World Veterans Championships last month in Abu Dhabi.
"It's been an amazing experience," said Hubble, who won gold in the 52 kg class. "To be away from judo that long and to come back and accomplish this, it's really a satisfying feeling."
A national and world-class competitor in her teens while growing up in Delta, Hubble won a silver at the 1985 Pan Am judo championships and a bronze at the 1987 Pan Am Games. But by 1988, Hubble was feeling "burned out" and left the sport behind to pursue other interests, including working as a stunt performer on hundreds of films for over two decades.
Six years after moving to Kelowna in 2006, Hubble was back in the sport as both a coach (sensei) and a competitor at the Kelowna Judo Club.
"I loved being back," said Hubble. "All the guys at the club were great, they encouraged me to give it a try. My fellow instructors were the driving force in getting me to compete again and see what I could do. They kept urging me to go for it."
After dominating her opponents in several competitions—and despite many sore muscles and joints along the way—Hubble eventually rose to the top at the national level, winning the Canadian masters title earlier this year in Richmond.
"Winning nationals was the deciding factor, that was enough to convince me to take a shot at worlds," said Hubble. "I put my nose to the grindstone and started training hard, Sean Hawthorne at One Life Fitness really helped me get my strength up. Without improving that, I would have no hope at worlds."
At the world championships, Hubble took down the national champions from Italy, Germany and Austria, all by Ippon (perfect score), in successive matches to advance to the gold medal match.
In the final, against European champion Brigette Rasschaert of France, there was little to choose between the two combatants.
"My first three fights ended in 30 seconds to a minute, all by Ippon, but this one went the full three minutes, then to overtime," Hubble explained. "Neither of us had anything left, maybe more she was a bit more spent than I was. I think it was just pure luck, she came in for a throw, I countered and got the Ippon."
Luck or not, Hubble had won her first international gold medal.
"My coach flung me in the air, my teammates came down from the stands and did the same," said Hubble, who thanked many of her friends as well as her daughter, Tia, for their support over the last year . "I was pretty elated and I've been flying high ever since. It was very cool to stand on the podium and to hear (Canada's) national anthem. It's what I had as a vision, kind of a what I had hoped for coming back and training so hard for a year."
With a world title in her possession, Hubble said she can now walk away from the competitive side of the sport for good, and with no regrets.
She'll now focus on teaching her students at the Kelowna Judo Club, while spreading the word about the many benefits of practising judo.
Just look what it's done for Kathy Hubble.