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Montréal, March 8, 2024 – It has been five years since Isabelle Harris moved from her home province of British Columbia to Montréal to pursue her judo training at the National Training Centre, located on the premises of INS Québec. And while the move brought about its own share of challenges, it also enabled the judoka, now 22 years old, to pursue her most ambitious sports dreams.

Harris readily admits that her parents were apprehensive about letting her move across the country alone, to a place where she knew no one, just a short time after she had completed her accelerated high school education through home schooling.

“Although they were supportive of me, they were also worried because I was so young. In the end, everything turned out fine. I was glad for the opportunity, but I was homesick at first. There was also some culture shock because I didn’t speak French. I went from living in my family of four children, where we were all home-schooled, to being on my own,” said Harris, who at the age of 17 had to adjust to a new, bilingual environment more than 4,500 kilometres from home.

“From a sports point of view, training at the National Training Centre was much more difficult than it had been at my local club. Physically it was hard, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I never gave up. I pushed through, and I’m proud of that! It really helped me improve and earn valuable points toward being carded [through Sport Canada],” explained the judoka, who competes in the under-63 kg weight division.

“I received a lot of support from my family and coaches in British Columbia. Without them, I couldn’t have done it!” – Isabelle Harris

As a child, Harris took ballet lessons. However, her physical pursuits took an abrupt turn when she discovered judo at the age of twelve. The Abbotsford-born athlete developed an undeniably competitive spirit in a discipline where she could apply elements she had learned in ballet.

“The more I got involved in judo, the more I liked it. Ballet taught me to work hard and to control my body, which now makes it easier for me to control my opponents’ bodies. Putting in a lot of hours to execute movements perfectly is a skill that transferred well to judo,” explained Harris, who had quickly realized she wished to reach the highest levels of judo someday.

Alongside the best

Since her arrival in Montréal, Harris has demonstrated true character, and she takes every opportunity to learn from the coaches and athletes at the National Training Centre, including the number one judoka in the world in her weight class, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard.

“It makes such a huge difference, and the coaches are amazing! Even the weight training program has made a big difference for me. I always knew it would go well,” said Harris, with unshakable confidence.

Moreover, the Canadian had the chance to live with another big name on the senior national team during her first summer in Quebec: 2021 under-57 kg world champion Jessica Klimkait.

“I was a bit intimidated, but [Catherine and Jessica] are super nice,” admitted Harris, with a chuckle. “I’m now friends with them, which is very cool! When I first arrived here, I saw them as celebrities because they’re so good, but training with them and getting to know them has turned my dream into a reality. You get the feeling they’re really behind you. They’ve done very well, and they can help me do well, too. I see them go through their ups and downs, and I see how they bounce back. It’s inspiring.”

If all goes to according to plan, Beauchemin-Pinard will represent Canada in the under-63 kg weight class at the Paris Olympics this summer. Harris is therefore in a privileged position to observe and take part in the Olympic preparations of the Tokyo bronze medallist, and to put what she learns into practice in her own numerous continental tournaments.

Harris competed in the Pan-American Games in Santiago, Chile, where she was awarded the silver medal in a tournament won by Olympian and six-time Grand Slam medallist Maylin Del Toro Carvajal of Cuba.

“It was an incredible experience. I was feeling very confident that day. I had a tough draw, and my first match was against Prisca Awiti Alcarz of Mexico, who is one of the top fifteen in the world. She had beaten me at the Pan-American Open, but I managed to beat her,” recalled Harris.

“I proved to myself that I’m on the right track, and that I can get to where I want to be. It was an important step for me, and a great way to end the season.”

Harris, who is currently ranked 64th in the world in her category, hopes her performance [at those Games] will serve as a springboard for the rest of her career and help her achieve her next goal, which is to become the Pan-American champion in her category. As always, she will give her all to achieve her goal.


Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada

For more information:

Patrick Esparbès
Chief Operating Officer
Judo Canada
(514) 668-6279

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