Mon, September 23, 2013

Tritton optimistic about chances at Olympics

By TIM BAINES, QMI Agency


Canadian Olympic judo team member Nick Tritton (Tim Baines/QMI Agency)

OTTAWA - Put Nick Tritton into any kind of uniform, let him try any sport, and he was pretty good.

Swimming, baseball, soccer ... he was a national champ in both wrestling and judo, captain of the football team and starter on a championship basketball team at Perth and District Collegiate Institute.

His dad Mark gave the kid a set of golf clubs when he was 13 or 14, thinking Nick would bash the ball around and fish it out of the pond every now and then. The kid kept score the first day, determined to get par on every hole. Now, he’s nearly a scratch golfer.

A “typical hyperactive kid,” according to his dad, he always had a sparkle in his eye, that competitive glint that also got him into a bit of trouble at the time.

“I was always picking fights,” said Tritton, who turns 28 on Friday. “My classroom was the principal’s office.”

His dad wanted to harness that energy in a different way.

“My dad wanted to teach me self discipline, so he put me in judo,” said Tritton. “For Christmas, he gave me tapes of the Olympics. I was hooked.

“I wasn’t that good when I was younger. I didn’t place at nationals until I was 16 or 17 and I didn’t win until I was 19.”

Mark, however, noticed his son “could go to a judo clinic and pick things up in the first few minutes.”

With his early training in a “cleared-out” elementary school classroom in Lanark, his tenacity earned him the nickname Bulldog.

Being “hooked” led to success; he’s heading to the Olympics later this month to represent Canada in judo — his second trip to the world’s biggest sporting stage.

The notion of representing his country in the Olympics has long been in the back of his mind. When he moved from Perth (he had been training at Ottawa’s Takahashi Dojo) to Montreal in 2003 to train full-time at the National Training Centre, it was just what he had to do.

At least it’s what he had to do if he wanted to have a moment anywhere near what he remembers of Donovan Bailey’s 100-metre gold-medal race in 1996.

“I was at a drive-in movie theatre, watching Independence Day,” said Tritton. “The radio station cut in that Donovan had set a new world record for the 100 metres. It was a cool moment. When you work so hard, you know how they feel. I was stoked, it was awesome.”

In the lead-up to the Olympics, Tritton’s been working hard, juggling his tough training schedule with a family life that includes girlfriend Tomoko, 2 1/2 year old daughter Emma and three-month-old daughter Taylor.

“A lot of people ask how I cope. It’s all about being organized,” said Tritton. “I train and I have my family time.”

Tritton knows he has a chance every time he competes. He has beaten world champion Riki Nakaia and others who are ranked higher than him.

In judo, it’s sometimes right place, right time. Or luck or lack of luck of the draw.

In both 2009 and 2010, Tritton drew the world champion in the first round.

“I don’t think people want to see Federer vs. Nadal in the first round,” said Tritton. “It’s super unfair. But that’s what the International Judo Federation wants.”

To get to London, Tritton has battled a series of nagging injuries.

In 2011, he broke a rib, returned and tore up a knee, returned and tore ligaments in an elbow, returned and had a herniated disc in his back, which required two cortisone shots. He couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks.

“When you go from injury to injury, it’s frustrating,” said Tritton. “I’ve gone into tournaments where I can’t move my arm or my knee. You’re taped up and you have to compete. In our sport, when we practise, we’re fighting. People get injured. Mentally, it takes a toll on you.

“People ask, ‘Are you stressed out? Is your back OK?’ Injuries suck and they can make or break you. But the thing is it’s almost a blessing in disguise.”

Triton, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, says the experience was tremendous — from the moment he walked into the stadium for the opening ceremony.

“It was amazing. The stadium was packed. Canada is one of the rowdiest teams, singing O Canada. It was something special.”

He plans to miss this year’s opening ceremony to rest and prepare for his competition.

“Judo is such a tough sport,” said Tritton. “Wrestling and judo take every aspect of every skill.

“People say team sports are the hardest, but you can have a day off in a team sport and still win. In an individual sport, if you have an off day, you’re not on the podium.

“I go in there super relaxed. You can’t have regrets. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.”

In his spare time, Tritton is a mentor to youth in the Montreal area — a stand-up guy, albeit one with tremendous inner drive to succeed.

“I like to win. Everything I do, I want to be a champion. I dream about it every day. There’s not a day I don’t think about beating everybody and standing on top of the podium. You hear Japan’s national anthem about 45 times. It would be nice to hear Canada’s.”

“I’m going there to win a medal. If I don’t fight for a medal, it would be a huge disappointment.

“If I don’t win a medal, the chances of me retiring are pretty huge.”

Attached to his computer screen at home are motivational notes, different sayings which help push him to his limits. There’s a photo of him throwing down one of the top Brazilian competitors.

Bulldog is leaving as little to chance as possible. The computer screen has room for another photo ... one of him celebrating an Olympic medal.

TRITTON BIO

Age: 27

Born: Guelph, moved to Perth

Graduated with: Future Olympians Mike Brown (swimming) and Sultana Frizell (track and field, hammer throw) at Perth and District Collegiate and Institute

Competed: 2008 Olympics in Beijing

Weight category: 73 kg (ranked Top 10 in world)

Accomplishments: World Cup gold in Prague 2005; bronze at 2007 Pan Am Games; 5th at 2010 Grand Slam in Moscow; gold at 2010 World Cup Miami: bronze at 2010 Tokyo Grand Slam

tim.baines@sunmedia.ca