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Churchill student throws down at judo tournament

March 14, 2024 News Story
Churchill - Judo Athlete Spotlight

Collège Churchill High School student was twice triumphant at the largest judo tournament in North America. 

Kieran Scanlon earned gold medals in the U16 +73 kg and U18 -90 kg novice divisions at the 2024 Edmonton International Judo Championship, which took place March 8 and 9 at West Edmonton Mall.  

Scanlon is a member of CCHS Judo Club. The hulking Grade 9 student was introduced to the Japanese martial art just one year ago.

“I was new at the school last year and my teacher Mr. Rasmussen was telling me about some of the sports we have at Churchill and judo was one of them,” said Scanlon, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 195 pounds.

“I don’t know what I expected. I don’t think it was this though. It was like, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a try.’ I ended up liking it and sticking with it and I’m really happy I found it.”

An orange belt, Scanlon also won gold in the U16 +73 kg division at last year’s tournament in Edmonton. The competition features over 1,200 athletes and takes place at the Ice Palace in the middle of the massive mall. 

Scanlon didn’t let the pressure-packed environment get to him. 

“Before the fights, it played a bit of a part, but as soon as I step on the mat, I don’t pay attention to anything else. It all just goes away,” he said. 

That said, Scanlon didn’t just walk away with his wins. During his final fight in the U16 division, Scanlon was caught off-balance and thrown to the mat by his opponent. 

“When that happened, I thought I may have lost,” he said. “I looked at the ref and he wasn’t calling the win. I looked at the scoreboard and it still said 0-0. So, I just kept going. I just rolled through, pinned him, and held it.”

The comeback impressed his head coach Gary Sova. A seventh dan black belt, Sova also coaches the Inner City Judo Club, and has done so for the last 42 years.

“It was a very quick transition,” Sova said. “When the guy was on top of him, Kieran just rolled him right into a pin. It was perfect.”

Dylan Rasmussen also coaches CCHS Judo Club, alongside Sova and fellow Churchill teacher Sofiene Loumi. 

Rasmussen said Scanlon is a tough customer, inside and out. 

“Part of what makes Kieran really strong is despite a loss or a setback, his mindset is always ‘How do I get better?’” said Rasmussen, who recently earned shodan rank himself. 

“He’s always focused on continually improving himself. At his first tournament, he suffered his first loss and actually came back and ended up beating that same opponent later on. I thought that was huge. It’s that mental resilience that I think will take him very far.”

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