When describing the moment he realized he’d won gold in his division at the Canadian Judo Championships in Richmond, Sam Kim summed it up in one word:
The 17-year-old Earl Marriott Secondary student had won three matches in the 90-kg U18 junior division, with his final going into overtime at the national event held over the July 4 weekend, qualifying him for the Cadet Judo World Championships held in Miami last month.
“I was trying to process what was happening,” he said of the win. “Going into nationals, I was really training with my coach, about four to five times a week.
“We just had the goal of taking it one thing at a time, one match at a time.”
For Kim, who has been practising judo since he was in Grade 4 and plays out of the Steveston Judo Club, winning nationals has been a longtime goal, with three previous attempts under his belt.
Moving to Canada in Grade 1, the South Surrey student had already had experience with taekwondo before moving on to judo in order to learn a martial art that incorporated grappling.
“The thing about judo is that it disciplines you. It’s a combination of physical strength and mental strength as well. After the first four minutes of the match, you get really tired and you have to fight through it all,” he said.
The discipline also extends to training, Kim said, noting that in order to focus completely on judo, the athletic teen gave up rugby and other sports last year.
Now that he’s in his Grade 12 year, Kim acknowledged that he won’t be able to devote as much time to the sport as he has in the past, making the win this summer that much more gratifying.
“I knew this year was a really great opportunity for me. In the past, I’ve gotten so close. So, when I made it in the finals, it was all so surreal. I thought ‘what do I have to lose now? I can go fight my hardest,’” he said.
As part of the requirements for the world championships, Kim packed his bags last month and headed to Montreal, where he trained with the Canadian judo team at the National Training Centre.
The opportunity to train with Canada’s best judokas helped Kim keep his spirits up after he was eliminated at the international competition after losing his first match.
“The experience was really humbling,” he said.
“Winning nationals and going to worlds and just seeing how popular judo is all over the world and seeing how hard people train all over the world, you just kind of put things in perspective.”