After almost a quarter century away from the sport, Kelowna’s Kathy Hubble has made a triumphant return to competitive judo.
A former national team member and five-time Canadian champion, Hubble captured the gold medal earlier this month at the Spokane Inland Empire Classic judo tournament.
Hubble, 44, scored three decisive wins en route to the gold, including a victory over Leigh Yamada who recently won the title at the 2012 world championships in Miami.
A sensei (coach) at the Kelowna Judo Club, Hubble competed on the Canadian national team in the 1980s, won a silver at the Pan Am Championships in 1985 and a bronze at the Pan Am Games in 1987.
Despite her early success, Hubble was feeling “burnt out” and stepped away from the sport at just 19.
For the next two decades, she worked as a full-time stunt performer in the film industry, working on hundreds of films including Rumble in the Bronx with Jackie Chan, and Agent Cody Banks, doubling for Hilary Duff.
Judo had seemingly become part of her past but after being invited to a reunion of the 1980s national teams, Hubble rediscovered her passion for the sport.
When she joined the Kelowna Judo Club and became a coach, her return to the sport was complete.
“I didn’t feel I had much knowledge to pass on, though, as I’d been away from the sport for so long, the kids were teaching me,” said Hubble. “But all the other senseis there were so awesome and they welcomed me back so warmly and helped me remember my techniques from the past. It all started to come back, like muscle memory, and it felt great to be giving back and helping out.”
Twenty-four years after leaving the sport behind, her competitive bug had also returned and her sights were soon set on competing at an elite level.
Hubble started training hard, soon to realize it was better idea to train smart, not hard, as as injuries were more likely to occur than 24 years earlier.
“It really bummed me out that I couldn’t train hard like in the past when I wanted to,” she said, “but everything was hurting and I just don’t bounce as easily at 44 as I did when I was 19.”
Kathy entered her first competition last December, winning gold in the Master’s Division and a silver in the regular division.
Not yet feeling fully prepared or in competitive shape, Hubble committed to training harder for the Spokane tournament. It paid off.
“That felt pretty good, considering I had only been back for two months at that point, but I wanted to win decisively, so that was my goal for this past weekend’s tournament.”
Thanks in large part to her gold medal effort in Spokane, Hubble has her confidence back is now focused winning gold at the worlds this November in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
“If I can take gold there, I’ll be satisfied enough to retire again, and then dedicate the rest of my judo life coaching,” said Hubble. “But I really want to train hard to try for that gold. I mean ‘train smarter, not harder’. I guess Advil and I will be friends for a little while longer.”
Judo Club competition
In other competition news, the Kelowna Judo Club kids went down to Penticton recently for an interclub shiai (mock tournament) with all athletes picking up wins.
Kelowna Judo Club competed against Vernon Judo, Penticton Judo, and Lake Country Judo clubs. Gunnar and Grayson Tolsdorf, Ben and Bailey Leatherdale, Josh and Ben Hamilton, Jake and Max Black, Jessie Insley, Ricardo Piers, and Rajan Sandhu all competed hard, some of them getting three matches, and some as many as seven matches.
At an interclub shiai, the kids get to learn exactly what a real tournament is like, and practice the rules. For a lot of the kids attending, this was their first tournament experience.
“Each and every one of them represented Kelowna so well, with not only awesome fighting, but great sportsmanship and etiquette as well,” said coach Kathy Hubble.