Members of the Creston Judo Club — and visitors from as far away as Fernie and Invermere — had a chance to learn from one of the best, when Olympic medallist Antoine Valois-Fortier spent three days instructing workshops on the weekend.
The Quebec native earned bronze in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the first Canadian judoka in 12 years to win an Olympic medal and the fifth in Olympic history.
“To be able to work with the highest-level athlete in the sport is amazing,” said Creston sensei Munro Albert.
In his 25 years in judo, this was the second time he’s worked with an Olympic medallist, and he was pleased with the 23-year-old’s training philosophy.
“He’s not just about gold medals and win, win, win,” said Albert.
Valois-Fortier flew into Calgary before coming to Creston on Friday, and was immediately taken with the scenery.
“It was the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains,” he said. “It was unbelievable. People are so close to nature. We don’t have that at home.”
After working with Kootenay judokas from Friday until Sunday, he was impressed with the locals’ skill.
“The level is pretty strong for the size of the community,” Valois-Fortier said.
He was still able to teach them a thing or two, and the judokas were eager to learn.
“People are asking lots of questions,” he said. “It’s always a good feeling to feel people are interested in what you have to say.”
Travelling across Canada was one of the first things he decided to do when he won his medal last summer. His goal is to encourage young people to apply themselves to something, even if it’s not judo.
“If it’s not judo, they just have to devote themselves,” he said.