The Manitoba judo team brought a rich family judo tradition to the mats for these Games. The judo team of seven male and seven female fighters features two sets of siblings and numerous other family connections to the sport and to the Games.
Brothers Kelden and Kadin Christ-Bonnell from New Bothwell are competing in the male under 50 kg and under 55 kg weight divisions. Kelden, a 14-year-old blue belt, and Kadin, a 16-year-old brown belt, have been involved in the sport for a number of years and have become successful competitors. Kadin was a double bronze medalist at the 2018 US Open Judo Championships held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Their mother, Sonia Christ, is a black belt who is an active participant and coach.
Siblings Justin and Sarah Ekosky, from Selkirk, competed in the male under 73 kg and female under 57 kg divisions, respectively and both won the bronze medal. Justin, an 18-year-old black belt, and Sarah, a 15-year-old brown belt, are seasoned provincial team competitors who have won national medals. Sarah was national champion in U16 at the 2018 National Championships. They are two of four siblings in their family all active in the sport. Their older brother, Damien, competed in the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, and earned a silver medal.
Other team members with family connections in the sport include Ariel Mesongnik, Emily Czosnek, Emily Rogowsky, and Ijob Hamraev, all of whom have fathers who are practicing and/or teaching judo. Ijob has more than one sibling
in the sport, including his brother Joseph who was a gold medalist at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
Meanwhile, the judo coaching staff also represents families with rich judo and Canada Games traditions. Head coach Mark Berger, a 7th degree black belt, won a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. His two daughters won medals at the Canada Winter Games – Olia, who went on to compete on the national judo team, won a silver medal while her sister Lena won a bronze medal at Canada Games.
Female coach May Baldo-Oduca represents another family dedicated to the sport. May finished 5th at the Games in 1987 and her husband, Jeff Oduca, was a gold medalist and flag bearer at the 1991 Games. They are both active coaches in the sport in Manitoba. Two of their children, Sharmayne and Thessa, also competed at the Canada Games, with Sharmayne finishing 5th in 2011 and Thessa finishing 3rd in 2015.
These strong family connections strengthen the sport in our province and encourage each successive generation to become involved in judo and to aspire to represent their province at Canada Games.