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Roger Beauchesne and Seiko Ouchi have been sharing their passion for judo with others, each in his own way. The prominent Canadian judo personalities were honoured by Judo Canada at the federation’s 2022-2023 Annual Awards and Recognition Gala last Sunday, following the Canadian Open Championships in Montréal.
As per the annual gala tradition, several awards were presented on Sunday to recognize the contributions of volunteers and athletes of all levels who represent excellence in their commitment to judo and who are crucial to the development and advancement of judo in Canada. It was therefore only natural to present the Judo Canada Hero Award to Roger Beauchesne of Quebec, who has been involved in the sport in various ways for over 57 years. First as an athlete, then as coach and technical director of the ITC Budokan Judo Club in Montréal, the Saguenay native has always been involved in judo in one way or another. And while he made his mark on the tatamis, the 5th Dan black belt has also had an impact on the sidelines, not only through his teaching skills, but through the many volunteer hours he dedicates to preparing competition sites for provincial and national events. No matter the location, he is always there day or night, and he has made it his duty—indeed, his pride—to ensure the facilities are always up to par for all the athletes. Although his work takes place behind the scenes, the task is essential to hosting events that bring the judo community together. While the vast majority of Canadian judokas have stepped onto a tatami installed by Mr. Beauchesne at one time or another, the next generation will also benefit from his efforts, as he continues to make it his mission to this day.
Seiko Ouchi: Dedicated to judo Seiko Ouchi was awarded the Lifetime Contribution Award, a national honour that was bestowed this year for the second time. Ouchi, an iconic figure in British Columbia judo, has occupied every role in the sport and has consistently stood out for his passion, taking the time to pass on his expertise whenever possible, while also remaining true to the values he adopted over the course of his career. Introduced to judo at the age of five, Ouchi pursued an athletic career for many years before turning to coaching, as well as to refereeing—a role that took him to the international level in 1988. Ouchi, who has always been involved in his community, has sat on numerous committees in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada, and has been involved in many national tournaments. He has also received several honours, including the Sport BC President’s Award in 2005 and the Judo BC Steve Asaki Memorial Award in 2014. Now 81 years old, he can still be spotted near the tatamis, where he continues to give back to judo, wearing his familiar smile. “In judo, as in any other sport in this country, our cornerstones, our essential elements are dedicated people like Roger and Seiko. Without them, we just wouldn’t be able to practice judo. They’re our arms, our hands, our hearts…they are passion incarnate and generosity personified. We can never thank them enough,” stated Nicolas Gill, chief executive officer and high performance director of Judo Canada. Sophie Roberge inducted, Beauchemin-Pinard and Reyes rewarded In addition to the tributes paid to Beauchesne and Ouchi, several other honours were bestowed on Sunday, including the induction of Sophie Roberge into the Judo Canada Hall of Fame as an athlete. Roberge, who competed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, won several international medals over the course of her career, including two Pan-American championships in 1999 and 2001 and seven Canadian championships. As for individual honours, Quebec’s Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard was awarded the title of Senior Female Athlete of the Year, thanks in part to her second-place finish at the 2022 World Championships in the under-63 kg weight division. Her teammate Kyle Reyes of Ontario, who also won silver in Tashkent last October, received the same honour in the men’s category. Shane Rooney (Kata), Bailey Hu (Kata), Leanna Au (U16), Lowan Le Bris (U16), Charlize Isabelle Medilo (U18), John Jr Messé A Bessong (U18), Evelyn Beaton (U21) and Jumber Meladze (U21) were named Most Outstanding Athletes of the Year in their respective categories. During the celebration, all the members of the Canadian delegation to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games received a commemorative frame in the event’s colours. The evening’s other winners were: Outstanding Shiai Volunteer Award: Sandra Hewson Outstanding Board & National Committee Contribution Award: Shu-Tai Cheng Most Outstanding Referee Contribution Award: Tammy Thornton Presidential Recognition Award: T.V. Taylor Most Competitive Club Award: Taifu Judo Club Club of the Year Award: Club de Judo du Haut Richelieu Ranking Ceremony: Marc Deschênes (Sandan), Shady ElNahas (Sandan), François Gauthier-Drapeau (Nidan) and Arthur Margelidon (Yondan) “This year marked a return to normal. Quite honestly, we were a bit worried about whether judo would be as strong as it was before the pandemic. We’re very pleased to report that Canadian judo is in great shape, and tonight’s recipients are a testament to the quality of our community, our athletes, our volunteers and our administrators! Congratulations to all!” concluded Gill.