Regional Paralympic and Military Judo Camp, Smashing Success
More than 60 visually impaired athletes and military veterans attended a regional training camp in Chicago Saturday hosted by USA Judo and Menomonee Judo Club.
Staff for the camp included some of the top Paralympic Judo coaches from around the country: Ed Liddie, Olympic bronze medalist and USA Judo’s Director of High Performance; Marc Vink, U.S. Judo Team Leader for the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games; and Brett Wolf, head instructor of Menomonee Judo and 2013 Junior World Team coach. Assisting were Scott Goldstein, David Tanimura, Tim Schultheis, Nicki Schultheis and Mike Minton.
The event brought more than 60 players onto the mat. Among them were 26 participants with visual impairments, 8 Military Veterans and 12 people with physical disabilities.
"I'm very proud to have played a part in such a great event. Exposing so many different people to the sport of Paralympic Judo is one of our missions at Menomonee Judo," said Wolf. There was a wide variety of ages represented at the camp. The youngest camper was an energetic six year old, while a spry 60 year old, trying Judo for the first time, was the the elder statesmen.
Military veterans attending were part of the Warriors Without Limits program. Warriors Without Limits is a judo program specifically geared towards both wounded, disabled and able-bodied veterans. The program was created by Wolf in 2011. Nearly half of Menomonee Judo's 300 players have some type of disability.
Vink led the campers through a variety of drills, including falling, gripping and throwing techniques. "Events such as these are absolutely vital to the continued growth of paralympic judo here in the United States," he said.
While some participants were trying judo for the first time, there were a group of experienced paralympic players present: Howard Wilson
(Menomonee Judo Club, Chicago, IL), a Marine with visual impairment, took the bronze medal at the 2012 Senior National Championships in the 90 kg. division. Wilson, who also represented the United States at the ParaPan American Judo Championships last July in Colorado Springs, thoroughly enjoyed being part of the camp, "I thought it was a great day. I'm really pleased that we had more than 25 participants with visual impairments on the mat at the same time."
USA Judo is committed to running regional camps like this throughout the country. "Our goal is to build our Paralympic and Military Judo programs in every region of the United States. We are very excited about running similar events in the coming months," said Liddie.