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This article was published 26/2/2015 (2308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — If there was any doubt the members of Manitoba’s judo squad were beasts at the Canada Winter Games, it was erased Thursday.
With three more medals in Prince George — one silver and two bronze — the masters of the mat have won a total of seven medals, nearly half of Manitoba’s total haul of 15.
Will Pops led the way with a silver in the 90-kilogram boys’ event. He was joined on the podium by Ryan Walker, who won bronze in the boys’ 81-kilogram event, and Martin Russo, who grabbed bronze in the 100-kilogram competition.
The fighters might not be done mining, either. They still have the men’s and women’s team competitions to go this week.
Of the three medallists, it’s safe to say Walker was the most surprised. The 18-year-old has been a regular at national competitions for years but never made the podium.
"Coming in here and winning on a big stage like this is unreal. Even when I got off the mat, my teammates were like, ‘You don’t look happy.’ I was so proud I was trying not to cry. It’s been a long road. I think I put in the work and it paid off in the end," he said.
After seeing his squad win four medals on Wednesday, coach Mark Berger said he hoped to win one Thursday.
"It’s better to say low and achieve more than to say more and achieve less," he said.
Berger said he hopes the medal haul will help attract more kids to judo.
"We keep our eye on the athletes who have potential and try to develop them. We don’t have the numbers of B.C. or Quebec. Only so many kids do sports. The No. 1 priority is hockey. Judo is a physical sport. Sometimes there are injuries. It’s not for everybody," he said.
Pops said he was proud — but not surprised — to be part of the most successful Manitoba team at the Canada Winter Games.
"We train hard and we put in the time and effort. That’s shown by our performance on the mat. (The medal count) is completely fair for how much we’ve trained," he said.
All three medal winners stepped up to the podium wearing a buffalo hat — reminiscent of the headgear worn by the Water Buffaloes on the Flintstones.
"It represents Manitoba pride and our hard work for the sport," said Russo.
Earlier in the day, Jesse Bachinsky became Manitoba’s second multi-medal winner. The Para Nordic skier, who has partial vision in his right eye, won a silver medal in the five-kilometre mass-start para-male race.
Two days earlier, he won bronze in the 1.2-km standing classic sprint para-male event.