It’s now universally accepted that our daily lives and sporting lives have changed and will continue to change for the foreseeable future, in response to an unwelcome, global, health crisis. We don’t need to explain this; in fact, we have probably all had quite enough of seeing reminders and negatives and restrictions. So, we’ll immediately move on. It’s time for good news and with our new perspectives, our more reflective approach, we can appreciate good news, no matter how small.

We have reduced our greed for the commercial and corporate and have a rejuvenated love for community, for the small wins and for genuine celebration of all that is local and positive.

Australia is a massive country with a population spread thinly among largely coastal cities, towns and villages. Their central government and state governments cracked down hard on the Covid epidemic, imposing stringent quarantine regulations and laws, at all levels. Restricted movement of people has undoubtedly had an impact on the movement of the virus. Just 46 new cases were recorded across the whole country on 15th September, compared with almost 8000 in France, for example.

On Sunday 13th September the state of Western Australia enjoyed a leap into sport competition, with football, rugby and judo all hosting their state championships. Pending, predicted anxiety seems to have dissipated wholesale, leaving all involved with a satisfaction and calm and the permission to immerse themselves in a little slice of our old lives.

Western Australia State Championships

Carlo Knoester, head coach of Kano Judo Schools, Western Australia (WA), spoke candidly, “Having a competition today was just what our local judo community needed. It was a glimmer of hope that things might be getting back to normal. During this lockdown period, many players changed weight and age categories. It was great to see them coping with the competition pressure, although many were understandably not yet match fit.

Perth is the most isolated city in the world and the state border is still closed to the rest of the country. This has been our saving grace as we have no cases of the virus in our community. Today gave us the hope that a bright 2021 is waiting for all of us.”

Another coach present added, “It’s so great to be back. We’re blessed here in Western Australia to have been able to continue training when most couldn’t. It’s nice to see that our athletes haven’t lost too much in terms of fitness and passion for the sport from our comparatively minimal lockdown.” John Commerford is a coach at the University of Western Australia Judo Club and he was proud of how his judoka handled the day.

Jacob Read, Community Engagement Officer and competition organiser for WA was proud to have been able to get the event off the ground, “We are very grateful here in Western Australia to be in the unique position of being able to recommence competition judo, particularly considering the virus is still looming in so many places around the world, including in other Australian states. In a way, WA has been living in a bubble for quite some time. In fact, our most restrictive lockdown period lasted for only a month, 23rd March to 27th April, almost 5 months ago, with many clubs being able to reopen with adapted, non-contact classes on 18th May. Clubs have been allowed to resume full-contact training since 8th June.

The further easing of restrictions relating to public gatherings on 27th June was a game-changer for us and since that date we have been able to hold two tournaments: a special needs competition and, most recently, our State Championships. It is clear that the WA judo community is eager to get back to some sort of normality. We are unbelievably thankful to be in this position, but we also acknowledge that many other places around the globe are still facing varying degrees of restriction. We extend our best wishes to judoka all over the world affected by COVID-19 and we look forward to a day very soon when we can all get back to enjoying this amazing sport.”

All stakeholders seem to have been buoyed by the day. One parent of young competitors said, “It’s simply brilliant to see that Covid hasn’t impacted the judo community in Perth long term. The fire and passion for judo is alive and well in Western Australia and my own children were excited to get stuck in. On the day they were so well looked after by coaches and WA staff and we are eager to see more events like this spring up again all over the world. There’s nothing like live judo for giving us back all the highs we have missed so much in recent months.”

Western Australia is enjoying this sporting freedom. Some countries have now been able to make preparations for holding their national championships too, with Slovenia running theirs on Sunday, just gone. Portugal is due to have a national event in just a few weeks and Japan’s domestic competition will be in October, ahead of December’s Tokyo Grand Slam.

We may have been quiet for a while but judo has been adapting and making the most of a different way of life. Slowly but surely the judoka are making their way back to the mats and it’s a very exciting prospect. Well done WA!

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