Road To The Olympic Games

Judo

Why you need to know about Canada's newest world champion

Smooth as butter. That's probably how new world champion judoka Christa Deguchi would describe her first Olympic cycle on the Canadian national team. Deguchi was born in Nagano, Japan, and takes residence in Yamanashi, but her father's Canadian roots makes her eligible to compete for Canada.

Christa Deguchi's decision to compete for Canada has the judo community thinking big

With a world title under her belt, Canada's Christa Deguchi, left, is ready to make statement at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images)

Smooth as butter.

That's probably how world champion judoka Christa Deguchi would describe her first Olympic cycle on the Canadian national team.

It's also how she would describe her favourite food — butter.

Deguchi was born in Nagano, Japan, and takes residence in Yamanashi, but her father's Canadian roots makes her eligible to compete for Canada.

Deguchi's decision paid off handsomely for her new home nation after she stunned the sport by capturing gold at the world judo championships this week in Tokyo.   

The 23-year-old made the decision four years ago, except the International Judo Federation requires dual-nationality athletes to sit for three years after switching allegiances. That means Deguchi was biding her time before storming onto the scene by winning the past two Paris Grand Slams as well as the world championship in August.

Her skill on the mat is clear as water.

Water, naturally, is Deguchi's favourite drink. Her favourite colour is black, and she also loves animals.

But she just happens to be one of four current Canadian world champions: Beach volleyball duo Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, and swimmers Maggie MacNeil and Kylie Masse being the others. 

WATCH | Deguchi ousts top seed to win world judo gold:

Christa Deguchi becomes Canada's 1st-ever judo world champion

Sports

2 years ago
11:58
Canadian Christa Deguchi beats world no. 1 Tsukasa Yoshida to claim the -57 kg title. 11:58

And this much is simple: Deguchi should be a contender at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Considering her heritage, that meet will be the most meaningful of her life.

It has all the makings of a storybook ending, one of those Olympic moments that couldn't happen anywhere else: In front of her family and friends, facing off against the top judokas in the world, many of whom also happen to be her former teammates vying for their own gold medals on home soil.

Deguchi's Grand Slam victory wasn't a coincidence, either. She downed top seed and former teammate Tsukasa Yoshida in the final. She beat her again to claim lightweight gold at the worlds.

Emergence of judo

Judo, of course, isn't a sport on the minds of many Canadians. Yet suddenly, Canada can claim the best in the world. Plus, in another of Deguchi's titles, she defeated fellow Canuck Jessica Klimkait at an event in China.

Nicolas Gill, the most decorated Canadian judoka ever and the country's closing flag-bearer from the 2004 Athens Games, has kept a close eye on Deguchi and served as a key part in Deguchi's recruitment.

"Judo in Japan is part of the culture. Judo in Canada is a foreign sport," he told CNN. "But Canada loves athletes that succeed at the Olympics and loves great personal stories. So all the ingredients are in place to write a great story in Tokyo."

Deguchi, the world champion and lover of animals, owns two cats. She said she would like a dog, but there's no room in her apartment.

Here's betting she can make some room for Olympic gold.

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