Watching the Canberra International Open in 2022 was defined by the post-Covid world - what does it mean to return to a semblance of normal?
There was something symbolic about each fighter removing their mask as they stepped onto the tatami. Shedding that last layer of defence to bow and stride forward and put to test the training of the last 6-8 months. And in the absence of the national team fighters, the promising talent in both genders coming up in the Australian field got their chance to make their mark.
On Saturday, highlight fighters included Kohsei Toyoshima from QLD who took gold in the 66kg cadets and junior men’s categories. Bryan Jolly won at 60kgs with a range of high-flying ure nages; and Ryan Koenig won the 73kg junior and senior men categories including facing down younger brother Josh Koenig in the junior men's final. Ivo Dos Santos turned back the clock at 66kg, and at the heavier end of the field Sebastian Temesi and Jakob Edwards took home gold across full draws at 90kg and 100kg respectively.
On Sunday, the women’s categories came to the fore, beginning with Clarissa Vumbaca who came out on top at 48kg. The 57kg category was a packed field, including the longest match of the day between Charisma Taylor and Tatum Loriente at exactly 7 minutes of golden score. Deana Finka and Marissa Finka were regulars on the podium taking home multiple medals across the 57kg and 63kg categories. Another noticeable repeating face was Avalon Askey who won gold in the 70kg junior women, silver in senior women and topped it off with gold in the senior open weight category.
As the weekend flowed on, the women's divisions displayed ashi waza combined with the fearlessness to fight through to newaza. The men's divisions featured high-flying dynamism and risk for reward.
Then as everyone put their masks on and scrambled out the door - things felt familiar. Because for 4 minutes intervals, fighters and spectators forgot about the rest of the world and any pandemic or post-pandemic happenings. For that 4 minutes (and in some cases, 11 minutes) life was valued only by the goal to defy gravity and put on a showcase of judo.
For photos of the Canberra International Open, click on https://www.facebook.com/media/set?set=oa.273387461534411&type=3
Article and photos provided by Melissa Budiarto