Three local jiu-jitsu athletes made the trek down to Texas for the 2021 World No-Gi Championships earlier this month and returned with medals and accolades.
The trio from St. Albert's Hayabusa Training Centre brought home plenty of hardware. Luke Harris, 44, the centre's founder, led the way in his respective black-belt division. He captured a silver medal in the super heavy-weight division, then qualified in and won the open weight division.
“It’s a pretty huge deal,” said Harris. The two medals were enough to vault Harris to the top of the world rankings in his age group. Harris said it's an honour to be ranked as the top athlete in his sport. “It’s great, it’s something I’ve been working toward for years ... I’ve probably competed at 15 to 20 international events over the last couple of years so that’s a lot of traveling.”
Harris led the trio from Hayabusa to the event, Oct. 4 to 9, with members Shaun Holmstrom, 64, and A.J. Timm, 34.
“It’s a huge honour, we have a large gym in St. Albert and I have a lot of young students ranging from five years old and up who look up to me and it's incredible to be able to show them what you can do with the sport.”
No-Gi is a different brand of Brazilian jiu-jitsu that requires a different uniform than the standard version of jiu-jitsu.
Harris founded the training centre and has been competing in various mixed martial arts events for most of his life. He said the pandemic wiped out the 2020 iteration of the event. The team had been waiting anxiously to get back into the competition groove.
“We have been waiting a couple of years to do this,” said Harris. “It was a huge undertaking. Travel has been difficult and so was training with all the restrictions in place.
“As a gym, we were closed for 15 months, which made things quite difficult. Once we were able to re-open, we began training for [the World Championships]. Travel included getting a lot of PCR tests and following restrictions. It was tough but definitely worthwhile.”
Holmstrom followed up on Harris’s victories with a few of his own. He captured a silver medal in his own division and then a bronze medal in his age group’s open division. This gave him enough merit to jump to second place on the world rankings.
Timm impressed with a bronze medal of his own in the brown belt ultra-heavyweight division.
The event was a success for the St. Albert athletes. Harris said they were competing, not only for Hayabusa, but the entire country.
“We train hard. Most of the competitors who won The Worlds were Americans and Brazilians, but we definitely left our mark for Canadians,” said Harris.
Members of the centre will try to add to their trophy case this winter. Harris is set to compete in Nashville, Tennessee, this weekend and he expects the centre to put together for the 2021 World Master Championships in Las Vegas in mid-November.