“The (Parapan Am) Games could potentially be the last opportunity for team Canada to earn qualification points."
The Canadian judo team’s hopes in competing in Rio 2016 might rest on Justin Karn’s shoulders.
Karn was just one of four judoka nominated to represent his country at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games (7-15 August), which serves a qualifier for the Paralympics. With much at stake, he understands his performance could trickle down to the rest of his teammates during the Parapan Am Games.
“As a Paralympian, there is a major additional stress to do well,” Karn said. “I will be most likely the first to compete and set the tone for the rest of the team. For me to succeed, (I) can help relieve some of the pressures they feel and help energise them to succeed as well.”
Karn (men’s under-60 kg) and Tony Walby (men’s under-90 kg) are the lone judoka on the small squad who carry Paralympic and Parapan Am Games experiences; both won bronze in the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan Ams and are currently ranked No. 15 and No. 11, respectively, in the world in their categories.
Walby has a tough task of getting past USA’s London 2012 bronze medalist Dartanyon Crockett – ranked No. 4 in the world – in Toronto 2015. Karn, however, tops the region in his respective class.
But there is work to be done as Karn is coming off a seventh-place finish at May’s IBSA World Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Following Seoul 2015 however, Karn said he is “analysing my last few performances and dressing (his) problem areas.”
August’s Games might be it for Karn and his three teammates.
“The (Parapan Am) Games could potentially be the last opportunity for team Canada to earn qualification points,” Karn said.
Although the four-team roster is small, Karn wants to set the foundation for the sport in Canada. Performing in front of a home crowd in August would especially help that cause.
“Canada is a great nation and one of the largest, but we have one of the smallest Paralympic judo teams throughout the world,” Karn said. “It means a lot to do well and help the sport grow the future, not only from outside the sport but as well as inside the sport as well.”
“My hope is that Canada sees and recognises the uniqueness of all the elite judo athletes, both Olympic and Paralympic, and understands the very challenging journey that they have all taken just to have the opportunity to represent their country.”