By Lorena Rodgers
For Westwind Weekly News
When Amy Kuno and Csaba Varsanyi, now of Stirling, were looking for a fun activity where their energetic 8-year-old daughter could burn off some steam, they had no idea it would lead to her finding her passion and a path for excelling in life.
Now at age 16, their daughter Hana is headed for the Canada Winter Games on February 21, representing Alberta in Judo.
“It’s a great honour to represent Alberta,” says Hana. “I feel nervous about all the eyes that will be watching me at the games, but I also find comfort in knowing that I have so many people behind me to cheer me on.”
Not that this level of competition is new to Hana. She has competed before at nationals, having won gold in U18 and silver in U21. As well as Canada, Hana has competed in the United States and Europe.
Besides, Hana likes to compete, and she likes to win. “I am a very competitive person; very self-motivated as well. If I think I can do better, I will try to beat myself. If I see a competitor doing better, I will try to improve and beat them.”
Fortunately, at the Lethbridge Kyodokan Judo Club, Hana’s coaches (who are all volunteers) also demand she achieve her very best. “The coaches are really great and work hard to train us. They hold us to a higher level, to achieve more than we thought we could.”
Hana sees the commitment and dedication of those at Lethbridge Judo Club, and looks to pay forward what she has learned from them. “More people are coming to our classes, and some of them are much younger. It’s fun incorporating them into our classes to help them achieve. All together we help each other grow.”
Much of Hana’s time is dedicated to the sport, with four classes, two days of weight training and three days of cardio training each week.
Despite the heavy schedule, Hana does not let her passion for her sport overshadow her school work. She is achieving grades around 90 in her classes at Catholic Central High School in Lethbridge. “It’s very important to keep balance, and my teachers are very supportive. They are always asking how I’ve done at competitions, even if they don’t know the sport very well. I always feel their encouragement.”
After she graduates, Hana plans to take Pre-Med as well as continuing on with Judo. “She’ll definitely do judo until she can’t do it anymore,” says Hana’s mom, Amy. “But she knows she can’t live off it. She’s very smart, and she can use this gift to study medicine.”
While Hana’s achievement in Judo have already opened up opportunities for her, like all sports, it carries risk. “When I was around 13 or 14 years old, I broke my wrist at a Western Canada competition. It made me think of what more injuries could happen. But the way I felt about it, I realized nothing could separate me from my sport.”
While her mother admires Hana’s dedication, she can’t help but have some concern for potential injuries. “Injuries are an ongoing concern with sports,” says Amy. “In hockey, kids get concussions or back injuries. I was especially concerned when she was in Germany, and we couldn’t be with her, and she doesn’t know the language.” However, Amy trusts the coaching team to train Hana and other competitors well, minimizing the risk of injury. “They also travel with their coaches, physiotherapists and others who can help them in case of injuries.”
Hana is seeing the opportunity to compete at the Canada Winter Games representing Alberta, Lethbridge Kyodokan Judo Club, and her home community and her family. Even when her parents and sister have not been able to attend her competitions, she felt they were still with her. “My mom and dad make a good environment for doing our best and for achieving our goals.”
Judo has been a good forum for Hana in achieving more goals than just sports achievement. “It’s a very good way to find yourself. It helps me concentrate, get better at understanding who I am and motivated to find a balance. It helps me grow as a person.”
Those who want to watch Hana hit the mat can view a live webcast on Feb. 25 and 26 at the following link: http://sportscanada.tv/canadagames/index.php/week2/judo\