On Friday July 14th, in partnership with the 50th Anniversary of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and in honor of Canada's 150th Anniversary of Confederation, Special Recognition was awarded to 11 individuals and groups who have made significant contributions to traditional Japanese sport in Lethbridge, or those of Japanese descent who have achieved significant accomplishments in sport.
The Lethbridge Sport Council was honored to have the Honorable Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell assist with the presentations, and board Chairman Shaun Ward as the Master of Ceremonies.
Japanese Canadian Curling Bonspiel – Lethbridge Committee:
In 2017, the Lethbridge committee hosted the 65th annual Bonspiel. One of the longest running bonspiels anywhere, the Alberta J.C. Bonspiel is steeped with tradition and home to some of the best curling competition in the province.
In 1984, the Lethbridge contingent was instrumental in arranging a twinning relationship between the Obihiro Curling Association and the Lethbridge Curling Club. The Obihiro Curling Association consisting of 300 members at the time, had no access to indoor curling facilities. Teams from Obihiro have participated in the Annual J.C. Bonspiel in 1985, 1995, and the 50th Anniversary Bonspiel in 2002. One member of the original visiting curling team participated in the World Senior Women’s Championship recently played at the ATB Curling Centre in April 2017.
The award was accepted by Tosh Kanashiro on behalf of the committee.
Japanese Canadian Golf Tournament – Lethbridge Committee :
The 68th annual Japanese Canadian Golf Tournament is being held in July 2017 - phenomenal. It takes a great deal of time, commitment, and energy to organize an event of this magnitude and over this many years. The modern day tournament is a collaborative event with representatives from Lethbridge, Calgary and Taber.
In its early years, this two-day event was alternately held in Edmonton, Calgary, Taber, and Lethbridge. It truly was an Alberta event. Since 1997, although still attracting Japanese golfers from around the province and as far away as Edmonton, it has been hosted annually in Lethbridge at the Paradise Canyon Golf Resort.
The award was accepted by Kas Shigehiro on behalf of the committee.
George Yoshinaka (1922 – 2003) For 60 years, baseball was a way of life for George. He played with the Asahi team, managed the Japanese-Canadian Citizens Association Niseis, coached his eldest son, and in 1967, he organized a team of 12-year-old Japanese-Canadian sanseis (third-generation Canadians), including his youngest son, that captured the Western Canadian Championships.
George helped create the Lethbridge Lakers, Canadian bronze medalists, helped bring professional baseball to Lethbridge in 1975, serving on the board for the city’s first Pioneer League franchise - the Lethbridge Expos, and later the Lethbridge Dodgers.
From 1983 to 1995, George coached his grandsons and was manager of the Southwest Senior Little League All-Stars, who came within one game of reaching the Canadian championships in 1994. The Dave Elton Park is home to a number of little league baseball diamonds, one being the George Yoshinaka Field.
George's grandsons Myles and Ryan Fletcher accepted this award on behalf of their grandfather.
Mary Oikawa (1936 – 2009) typifies the term volunteer. For decades she was devoted to lending a helping hand in a variety of sports, in particular, baseball and hockey. The Lethbridge American Legion Elks annual Mary Oikawa Memorial Tournament was established in 2010 to pay tribute to Mary, a tireless volunteer.
Mary served as a baseball volunteer and scorekeeper for many district, divisional, prairie and national playoffs. She held executive positions with the Coaldale Minor Hockey Association, Spud League, Lethbridge Big League Baseball Association and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, has helped organize minor baseball in Picture Butte, and served on several Japanese-Canadian Bonspiel committees.
The award was accepted by Scott Oikawa, on behalf of his mother.
Yoshitaka (Taka) Kinjo will be celebrating his 45th anniversary of teaching karate in Canada in 2018, a truly significant achievement. He presently holds a 10th degree black belt signifying a world-class level of skill. He is a teacher of karate; a teacher of cultures; and a role model to many in building relationships to enhance our community, our province and our country.
Sensei Kinjo teaches karate as both a sport and an art. Sensei Kinjo’s unique talent for adapting his teaching styles, to allow even those with limited mobility to practice karate, has produced amazing results that have dramatically changed lives.
Through karate, Kinjo helped establish a student exchange program between Canada and Japan with an aim toward fostering international friendships and providing cultural exposure.
Tim Takahashi has taken care of thousands of local athletes through his work as an athletic therapist since 1998. Tim is a Certified Exercise Physiologist, Certified Athletic Therapist, Registered Kinesiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Tim is a Physical Training Instructor for the Recruit Training Program through the Criminal Justice Program and Exercise Science Program at Lethbridge College, trains Lethbridge Police Service officers and officers from other law enforcement agencies, a University of Lethbridge Kinesiology Instructor, and Co-Owner of Rebound Health Centre at the University of Lethbridge Sports Medicine Clinic.
Tim has been coaching high school football for over 17 years and serves as a sports injury and sports performance consultant to many high performance, Olympic level and professional athletes.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics, Tim was a Doping Control Officer with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport for the International Olympic Committee. He continues in his work as a doping control officer for the southern Alberta region.
Tim is also an accomplished judoka – a 2nd degree black belt and a two-time Lightweight Veterans National Champion, and a bronze medalist at the 2016 World Masters Championships.
As Tim was unable to attend the presentations, Dean Maruyama accepted the award on his behalf.
Malcom Kano has been the Lethbridge/Taber KidSport Society Chair since 1995. KidSport believes that no kid should be left on the sidelines and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports. KidSport removes the financial barriers that prevent children from playing organized sport.
Since 1995, Malcolm has led the fundraising to over 700,000 dollars which has assisted over 4,500 kids the opportunity to participate in sports. He is a 20-year and current provincial board member for KidSport Alberta, which has raised over 19 million dollars and funded more than 93,000 kids.
Dave Rathnow began his martial arts training in 1982 learning karate under the instruction of Thor Tandy Sensei and Roger Keeping Sensei at the University of Victoria with much attention given to the spiritual aspect of Budo training and how it could be used to improve oneself through disciplined practice.
In 1992 when Dave was introduced to Ken Maneker Sensei and started studying Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaido under him. He started teaching Iaido in 2002. In 2013, Dave passed his Rokudan (6th-dan) grade in Japan.
Since 2004, Dave volunteers his time to come to Lethbridge and often brings students with him to host demonstrations and classes. Lethbridge students make the return trip to his home dojo in Calgary to receive training.
Lethbridge Kyodokan Judo Club was established in 1952 by Yoshio and Florence Senda. It is now in its 65th year of operation and over those years, through exceptional organizational leadership, has progressively increased the membership to 275 members and 25 coaches becoming one of the largest judo clubs in Canada. In 2006 they built a custom designed, judo specific facility in south Lethbridge and in 2015 began operating a Regional Training Centre with Judo Canada.
The Club has had a long history of producing National Champions and Olympians. In 2017 they led Judo Alberta to a historic second place finish at the National Championships while winning the most medals by any individual club.
The award was accepted by Dean Maruyama on behalf of the club.
Florence Senda has been involved in judo for more than 50 years, and during that time, she has served the sport in every way imaginable – as an athlete, coach, instructor, administrator, referee, tournament organizer, scorekeeper, chaperone and even cook. When the Club had enough money to purchase used straw tatami her husband would take home three mats at a time and Florence would hand-sew canvas covers for them. She ended up sewing approximately 50 mats.
Florence earned her black belt in 1974, becoming just the second female in Alberta to attain that level. She presently holds a Yondan (4th-degree black belt).
Florence was instrumental in attracting girls to study judo and at one time, the Lethbridge Judo Club featured more female juvenile judo athletes than male due partly to her leadership.
Yoshio Senda (1922 – 2009) To say that Yosh has done an outstanding job in building, administering, promoting and coaching judo in Lethbridge would be an understatement of immense proportions. Yosh Senda is judo in our city.
Yosh and Flo were the force behind bringing judo to Lethbridge – starting off at the original YMCA and later moving to the University of Lethbridge, where they coached for more than 40 years. Many of their athletes became National and International Champions and went on to represent Canada at several prestigious events, including the Olympic Games. Yosh was coach of the Canadian Olympic Judo Teams in 1980 and 1984, and Joe Meli's personal coach in the 1988 Olympics.
Yosh won the Canadian Junior Championships in 1937 and went on to be an outstanding Judokan in the 1940's 1950's and 1960's. He has the distinction of having earned the first ever Kudan (9th degree black belt) awarded by the Dan grading committee of Judo Canada in 2006.
Yoshio's award was accepted by his wife, Florence Senda.
Once again, congratulations to all the award recipients, and everyone in our community who dedicates themselves to making sport more diverse and vibrant in Lethbridge. We are fortunate to have you and your culture in the City of Lethbridge.
Full biographies on all award recipients can be found on our website www.lethbridgesportcouncil.ca.
- Tanya Whipple
Originally published in the Lethbridge Herald on July 22nd (part one) and July 29th (part two), 2017