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Richmond's sporting legends humbled by honour

The Richmond News caught up with two storied local trios, from the world of football and judo

Saturday is going to be a special day for a whole crew of Richmondites who’ve been woven into the sporting fabric of the city over decades of playing, leading and coaching.

A total of eight outstanding individuals and two teams will be getting recognized by being inducted into the Richmond Sports Wall of Fame at a ceremony at the Gateway Theatre.

Three of them have been bonded for life through their love of judo and a Steveston connection that goes back almost 60 years.

In fact, it was in the ‘60s that Rick Yodogawa, now 75, and Jim Kojima, 84, as sensei (instructors) at the storied Steveston Judo Club, first taught Alan Sakai, who’s now president of the club, age 67.

All three have enjoyed a stellar career in the martial art, a resume which includes appearances at national and Olympic level, as well as decades dedicated to coaching and volunteering.

Learning the 'breakfall' early

Indeed, Yodogawa recalls one of the early days coaching at the club, when he starting “throwing” a nine-year-old Sakai to the floor, introducing him to the art of the “breakfall.”

“My sensei (in 1953) just kept throwing me and throwing me,” said Yodogawa of his own initiation to judo, age 12, in Steveston.

“I said ‘why do you keep doing that?’ He said ‘you gotta take the breakfalls. If you want to get tough, you gotta learn to take it.’

“That’s what I said to Alan (10 years or so later) when he asked ‘why do you keep doing that?’”

Asked about those early days, Sakai laughed and said, “You don’t forget that. That’s how you learn to breakfall, so you don’t get hurt.

“If you don’t like pain, you can’t continue in judo.”

It had the desired effect, with Sakai representing Canada at the Olympics in 1972.

Wall of fame induction better than being 'graded up'

Of being inducted into the wall of fame, Yodogawa joked that he’s been trying to get “graded up” (belt hierarchy in judo) for years, so getting inducted “is a good thing.”

“This is better than getting graded up,” he added.

Kojima said it’s a “great honour,” before adding humbly that he thinks there are “many other deserving people” that could be inducted.

He pointed to the calligraphy on the wall – written by the founder of judo - of the hall at the Steveston Martial Arts Centre, which means, “if you work hard and persevere, you can attain your goals.”

Nodding to Sakai and Yodogawa, he said, “These two have earned that” induction.

Football trio go way back

Another storied trio being honoured on Saturday is brothers Bill and Bruce Haddow and fellow local footballing legend Bernie Glier.

Glier and the Haddows all went to Richmond High in the ‘70s, won a high school football championship and then coached in Richmond with each other and against each other at Hugh Boyd.

Glier had a seven-year CFL career, including a 1985 Grey Cup Championship with the BC Lions, while the Haddow brothers boasted a combined 82 years of successful high school football coaching.

Of hearing he was being inducted, Glier said it “was an honour for sure,” adding that being able to stay in Richmond while playing at high school level and in the CFL, as well as coaching, is something that he’s “very proud of.”

Bill, meanwhile, said he was “shocked” to learn he was making it into the hall of fame, noting that “we don’t get into what we do for any recognition or anything.

“You don’t think about that when you’re playing and coaching, you just do it because it’s something you like to do.

“Years go by and after a while, someone somewhere thinks you’ve done something important, so it’s nice to be recognized.”

Bruce said he was surprised by the induction, but fondly recalled the days when all three of them played together at high school in the ‘70s.

“To be standing here today, being honoured together, is quite something…we all go way back. We’re very much looking forward to Saturday.”

The other 2021 Richmond Sports Wall of Fame inductees (postponed last year due to the pandemic) are:

•        Albert Nishi – 33 years of coaching numerous sports in Richmond

•        Mike Charlton – Coached several school sports over many years including winning multiple championships

•        1994-1999 Richmond Eagles Girls Field Hockey Team –“Six-time” Provincial Champions

•        1975-1983 Richmond Superstars Girls Soccer Team –“Four-time” National Champions