McMurrayite judoka eyes first major tournament at home

During Laurie Wiltshire’s career in the sport of judo, she had the chance to travel Canada and the world.

First, it was off to Prince Albert, Sask. in 1999 for the Western Canada Summer Games, then Bangkok, Thailand in 2007 for the FISU Summer Games and more recently, Guadalajara, Mexico for the 2011 Pan American Games.

What she’s always missed out on though is the chance to compete at home in a major multi-sport games, an experience she’ll finally accomplish this August when she returns to Fort McMurray as an assistant coach on Alberta’s judo team.

“I would say it’s a little bit more stressful at tournaments,” said Wiltshire of the transition to coaching from being an athlete. “I’m worrying more about 20-30 other athletes rather than just myself. Your thoughts and your processes are going over what 30 or 40 people are doing instead of what do I have to do to get ready.”

Following a successful judo career that saw her win eight national titles — including seven at the senior level between 2005 and 2011, Wiltshire has turned her attention to Alberta’s next generation of judokas.

While her career began well before 1999, the year put her on Judo Canada’s map after a silver medal at the Western Canada Summer Games in Prince Albert, Sask. and a fourth place finish at the Canada Winter Games in Bathurst, N.B.

That year kickstarted her judo career into full force, culminating in 2012 as an athlete with a long list of accomplishments to her credit at the national and international level.

It’s with the same determination she’s taken to the coaching aspect of the sport in her retirement from the mat.

“She’s always enthusiastic about coaching — that’s a passion that I saw in her as an athlete,” said Wiltshire’s former coach Garry Yamashita. “When she did that Canada Winter Games apprenticeship, I was actually her mentor coach for that time and I think her enthusiasm for the sport and willingness to take on new challenges is always there.”

Now that she’s traded in joint locking and pinning techniques for booking flights and consulting with judo clubs around Alberta, Wiltshire is facing new challenges that can’t easily be thrown to the floor and tackled in a matter of seconds.

“Totally on the mat coaching, it’s what I was expecting, but all the extra stuff that the coaches do that you never see until you do it was a surprise,” she added.

With all the other duties on top of her, 2015 will not only be Wiltshire’s return to Fort McMurray, but also judo’s return to the Western Canada Summer Games, where it hasn’t been contested since 2003. Though it’s taken 31 years and she’s no stranger to Fort McMurray, Wiltshire is looking forward to finally being home at MacDonald Island Park during the judo competitions in less than three weeks.

“I’m excited to do a games in Alberta and be part of Team Alberta. I’ve never been to a games in a home province before. It should be a whole different aspect.”

Robert Murray
Fort McMurray Today