The NWT’s young judo athletes are capable of great things – but urgently need to find the commitment to match their talent.
That’s the view of coach Mario Desforges after watching two of the territory’s heavyweight stars at the Canadian national championships, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
Mason Bruneau returns to the territory with a national bronze medal at under-21 level, while Brent Betsina – who won silver at the Canada Games in February – leaves the tournament empty-handed.
Bruneau also came close to a medal at senior level, losing the bronze-medal match to Nedjo Sarenac, of Ontario.
On Facebook: NWT Judo Association
But Desforges insists the athletes, both in the 100kg-plus category, must markedly improve in training before they can realistically challenge for senior titles.
“Mason and Brent need to have more commitment,” Desforges told Moose FM. “They don’t do so bad at under-21, but senior is a huge step.
“You can’t cheat in judo. The guy who puts the hours in, almost all of the time, he wins. If you don’t do the process, you can’t be the champion.
“They have to understand they are pros and they must do their jobs. This time, it didn’t work out for them. I’m not surprised or disappointed, I’m just showing them what they have to do.”
Many of the territory’s sports organizations would be delighted to have an athlete pick up a national medal, but Desforges maintains Bruneau and Betsina have the potential to become national champions.
Betsina, following his Canada Games silver medal, briefly threatened to retire before returning to the judo and declaring his ambition to reach the Olympic Games.
Full results: Canadian nationals (Day 2: U21. Day 3: senior)
Desforges says that won’t be happening unless Betsina makes some big changes.
“I’m happy that Brent is back doing judo but Brent has to give more commitment,” he said.
“Athletes at this level should be training five or six times a week, twice a day. After that we have to do all the circuits and competitions. It’s a huge job.
“He faced a very tough weekend and he didn’t do enough training to be ready for this level. That’s my point.
“We’ll see what happens in the next few months. The Olympics? That depends on Brent, and maybe the nationals is a wake-up call for him to start working and training in a different way to be ready for this level.
“If Brent dreams of doing this, he has to start getting himself in good shape and focusing on his training. Right now, he’s not on track.”
We asked Desforges if the athletes have pledged to meet the levels of commitment he desires. His reply? That’s irrelevant.
“The guys can talk – ‘Yes, yes, yes’ – but for me it’s not about talk. Just do it,” he said.
“Don’t talk, do the job.”