Grace Petsnick went from southern Ontario to Quebec to exhaustion.
But it’s a trip she believes will help her go even further down the road to success in her martial arts endeavours.
The 14-year-old member of the local Borderland Judo Club recently spent two gruelling weeks developing her skills against some of the best judokas in Ontario and across Canada.
First was a trip to Oshawa for Judo Ontario’s Camp Budokan from July 23-29, where she and about 20 other judokas from age 11 to older adults practised three times a day for two hours each session.
“You could see the younger kids fighting with the older kids, or teenagers fighting with very experienced seniors, so there was a lot of skill and talent from all these fighters,” Petsnick noted.
“Everybody had so much drive and so much passion for judo,” she added.
Petsnick, Ontario’s lone gold-medalist at the 2017 Canadian Open judo championships back in May in Calgary, had her eyes opened even more to what it takes to reach the next level.
“The most valuable lesson I took with me from the camp was that the early-morning workouts, and the expectations from every single training session, showed me how hard it will be to be the best and push yourself to the limit to be better than the fighters around you,” she said.
From Oshawa, it was off to Montreal for Judo Canada’s Judo School from July 30-Aug. 5, where she took to the mat against a number of national-level athletes.
Among them was Jessica Klimkait, a 20-year-old from Whitby who competed for Canada in the under-52 kg division at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Klimkait was named the outstanding female athlete at the Elite National Championship in Montreal this past January.
“I was very scared and intimidated, to be honest,” Petsnick admitted.
“Some of these national and international fighters are the women I’ll be fighting next year, although Jessica is too old for me.
“I didn’t talk to any Olympians, everyone was very focused on training,” she added.
“We didn’t have much time between meals and activities to really converse with the athletes, but I was able to watch them fight, as we were all doing the same training on the same mat.
“I was able to do groundwork with Olympian Priscilla Gagné,” Petsnick noted.
“She was amazing, a really good fighter.”
Petsnick also said there was a significant difference in the training methods employed in Oshawa compared to Montreal.
“In Oshawa, they dedicated entire practices learning just a few techniques and repeating them,” she explained.
“In Montreal, they focused more on your speed and strength than your technique during practices.”
Petsnick, meanwhile, is eager to use what she learned during the two weeks of high-level training when the Borderland Judo Club begins its new season this fall.
“In order to succeed, you have to put in that extra effort,” she reasoned.
“You have to do everything 110 percent and want to be better than the rest.
“It showed me how much more improvement I need, and opened my eyes to my competition this fall as I will be moving up a weight class and an age class,” she noted.