It took a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun for Chris Hammill to realize he had to raise his awareness.
As hard as he trained, as passionate as he was about judo, the Grade 10 student from Royal St. George's College returned from Japan with a renewed sense for his chosen discipline.
Having been around the very best judo has to offer, having picked their brains and being immersed in the martial arts culture, Hammill's appreciation grew and he is now dreaming the ultimate dream of representing Canada at the Olympics.
"Even though I practised twice in Japan, my fighting style has changed dramatically,'' Hammill said yesterday at the 2006 Ontario Schools Judo Championship at the Hershey Centre.
"I've been pretty rigorous in my training, but the Japanese showed me I wasn't training the hardest yet."
Hammill, 16, will be off to the Canadian championship in Lethbridge, Alta., this July, his first appearance on the national stage.
Hammill has dined with Olympic medallist Nicolas Gill, this country's top judoka, but his dream encounter occurred in Japan when he met Yashihiro Yamashita, the gold standard with it comes to judo. The retired Yamashita went 270 consecutive matches without losing.
"What an incredible moment,'' Hammill recalled. "I think my eyes were extra wide for about 10 minutes."
Hammill became enamoured with judo because of the contact it allows.
"I was immediately impressed by the ability of people to throw another person to the ground almost effortlessly,'' he said. "I thought that was cool and it was something I wanted to learn."
Hammill is emerging as an ambassador for the sport.
He introduced classmate Eddie Younger to judo. For Younger, yesterday's tournament was his first.
"I definitely feel like a newcomer,'' Younger, who would emerge victorious in his debut, said. "It was a bit intimidating at first."
Some 300 judoka from across the province gathered in Mississauga.
Kids such as Hammill and Whitby's Kelita Zupancic, another highly acclaimed judoka, represent the future, one that looks very bright for Canada.