Leo Goldberg has been atop the mountain, so to speak, and he knows how hard it is to get back.
In 2013, Goldberg won the gold medal at the Canadian national judo championships.
“After winning nationals, there is always pressure to do again the next year,” he explained.
“You can’t top that result, you can only get the same result and it is frustrating when you don’t.”
“If you win by training a certain way one year, you have to train two times harder the next year to get the same result because people are always improving,” he said.
Goldberg, a 15-year-old from Langley, is preparing for his fourth straight trip to the national championships.
In 2012, he won bronze and last year, he won a pair of silver medals in both the U16 and U18 -55 kg divisions.
And next week he is off to Saint-Jean-sur-Richeliau, Que. for yet another appearance at nationals.
Goldberg is competing in the minus-60 kg division.
“He has got a fire in his heart,” said Tokue Suda, his coach since 2011 when Goldberg switched clubs from Langley to the Abbotsford Judo Club, a bigger club.
“He is a very dedicated student; that is why he is very good.
“Leo is quiet but so focused all the time.”
And in a sport like judo, focus is essential to success.
A full fight lasts no longer than four minutes, but can end early is one opponent is able to throw the other competitor on their back.
“You have to keep a cool head throughout the fight because there are no breaks,” Goldberg explained.
“You only get one chance and it can be a tiny mistake and that’s the end of the tournament for you.”
While focus is important so too is controlling your emotions during a match.
“I love the feeling of throwing someone; it is such an adrenaline rush,” Goldberg said.
“But you can’t let the adrenaline turn into anxiety or that might stop you from performing well on the mat. You can’t let your emotions run high.”
Goldberg, a Grade 10 student has done judo for the past eight years. His parents wanted him to learn a self-defence sport and he fell in love with judo immediately.
“I had a natural predisposition for fighting hand combat sports,” he said.
“(But) it took me a couple of years to get in the zone for fighting, to get the hang of it.”
And since then, Goldberg has excelled.
Earlier this year, he was part of Team BC at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, helping win the bronze medal in the team competition.
And in addition to the national championships next week, Goldberg is one of 14 athletes chosen to represent Team BC at the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, which will be held this August in Wood Buffalo, Alberta.
He is one of four members of the Abbotsford Judo Club to make the team. The others are Isabelle Harris, Simren Brar and Mitchell Wolfe.
They earned their sports after strong showings at a selection tournament in Richmond at the end of April.
“The Western Canada Summer Games are a great multi-sport opportunity for our younger athletes,” said Aline Strasdin, Team BC’s coach and chair of the Judo BC technical committee.
“Many of these athletes have attended the B.C. Winter Games and this is a great opportunity to help them prepare for larger events.”
Goldberg trains about 20 hours a week, and he hopes to keep advancing in the sport with an end goal of making Canada’s national team and representing his country at the international level.