Boy brings home gold from International competition

Thursday July 28th, 2011

July 21, 2011
SUNDRIDGE – It was the competition of a lifetime and James Johnson, a legally blind athlete, brought home the gold.

The competition was the 2011 International Blind Sports Association’s World Youth and Student Games in Colorado Springs. He arrived at home in the wee hours on Monday, June 18, with less luggage but a gold medal in judo clutched firmly in his hand.

His coach from the Almaguin Highlands Judo Club, Lilliam Campos, is beaming with pride.

“He’s beautiful, that boy, just incredible,” she said.

Johnson, 13, was one of a delegation of 16 Canadians at the games and was the only one who brought home a medal.

Just getting to the games was a challenge for Johnson. He learned in May that he was eligible to compete and the family, along with Campos, began to raise the funds to get him there.

They managed to come up with about $1,000 through fundraising and still need to raise an additional $2,100 to pay it off.

Campos is confident that they will raise the remainder of the money.

“The community support is incredible,” she said.

The beginning of the journey was a rough one.

They met with a storm and their flight was rerouted. Johnson, along with his coach and his mother, made it to Colorado Springs in time for the competition, but unfortunately his luggage did not. Thankfully, he had his blue judo gi in his carry-on and Campos lent him her white one.

They stayed a Colorado College and trained at the Olympic Training Centre.

He not only brought home a gold medal, but wonderful memories and new friends from Mexico, he said.

“They invited me to go train with them,” he said. “I couldn’t talk to them because they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish.”

But the language barrier didn’t keep them from making friends. He was particularly fond of Jesus, a 14-year-old boy who was not only blind but a deaf mute.

He is now learning some words in Spanish and can make basic introductions.

He wrestled Jesus, who is about the same size as Johnson and in the same age category.

“It was best two out of three. If I won two we wouldn’t have to go to the third match,” said Johnson. “I won both.”

He said, even above winning the gold, his favourite part of the games was meeting other visually impaired children from around the world.

It also proved to be an opportunity to broaden his horizons in competition.

“I was invited down to the Paralympic Games in 2016,” he said. “I think you have to be 16 or something to compete there.”

He was also invited to attend a training camp in Sweden that would have him sailing to a private island for training.

However, Johnson said he is not sure what is next for him, stating that right now he is focused on training.

And Johnston is not the only member of the Almaguin Highlands Judo Club accomplishing big things. His teammate Priscilla Campos, 17, participated in the Canadian Judo Championships in Sept-Iles, Quebec.

She is a member of the Ontario Judo Team and although she has faced competition at the national level before she found this year’s competition to be quite challenging.

She moved into the under 20 category this year making her one of the youngest and smallest girls in her age and weight group.

Facing the challenge head-on, she managed to bring home a bronze medal.

View more news