Track down judo expert Megan Hanks and speak to her.

She will make you realize you are underachieving, but you’ll still leave the conversation happy and motivated because her joie de vivre and ambition are contagious.

The 20-year-old Kamloopsian will read the athletes’ pledge along with younger brother Graeme at the BC Winter Games opening ceremony at Sandman Centre on Thursday.

Too old to compete, Megan is volunteering as an official at the Games and plans to hammer home a message in the process.

“I’m always interested in promoting judo, especially to female athletes,” Hanks said. “There is a gender imbalance in judo. I love to get girls and women involved in all aspects of judo, including coaching, refereeing and competing, and even just coming out for recreational activity.

“It’s a great cultural activity and it encourages all types of positive behaviours, like confidence and discipline.”

Hanks is taking a year-long break from school — she spent two years in Montreal studying at McGill University, pursuing physics and physiology as a double major — to earn a teaching and performance diploma in piano from the Royal Conservatory.

She is also using the recess to put choke holds on women.

(Legally, on the judo mat).

Hanks, an Aberdeen Judo Academy product, won the senior women’s 78-plus-kilogram division at the Canadian Elite 8 Championships in Montreal in January. Only the top eight competitors in Canada in their respective divisions are invited to the event.

The six-foot, 176-pound judoka was in a division that featured women who weighed as much as 230 pounds. Luckily, Hanks is tall and, more importantly, she is really, really smart.

“The key with fighting people heavier than you, or who have a lower centre of gravity and heavier mass, is picking throws that don’t require you to lift them, and to use their own momentum against them,” Hanks said, as if reading out of a judo textbook.

“I’m a little bit renowned for my ground work. People know to watch out for me for hold downs, arm bars and chokes.”

The pianist was lights out in the final, lulling Annabelle Darlow of Alberta into her grasp before putting the match to bed with a hold-down in less than two minutes, a performance that mesmerized, a moonlight sonata on the mat.

Each of Megan’s three brothers — Geoffrey, Graeme and Matthew — have excelled in judo and when Graeme competes this weekend, all four siblings will have experienced action at the BC Winter Games.

Megan can claim to be the best judoka in the country in her division and qualifying for the Olympics would not be a pipe dream, but it doesn’t seem like her dream.

“It would be quite a time-consuming adventure,” Hanks said. “I’d have to be at a point in my life where I could really take the time to commit to it. We’ll see.”

Promoting the sport at the Games is the goal for now — that and tickling the ivories in Kamloops before leaving again to pursue education in sciences.

“I want to show the young girls that there are other avenues they can continue to be active in judo, if they find competing is too time consuming or they don’t want to compete and they want to stay involved,” said Hanks, noting she is one of only two female judo officials regularly active in B.C.

“Judo is a lifelong activity.”

Kamloops judoka

At bcgames.org, there are eight athletes from Kamloops listed as members of the Thompson-Okanagan team.

They are Graeme Hanks, Benjamin Harcott, Emily Lindsay, Owen Meeks, Finn Newcomen, Nicholas Plumtree, Matteo Rawlings and Jordyn Yamakawa.

Chantell Nagy is listed as an assistant coach.

 

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