A local athlete is looking to move up the ranks after competing in the biggest tournament of her career.

16-year-old Olivia Krynski is a member of the Portage Judo Club and went to Edmonton last month for her first taste of a national competition. She says it felt like an extremely big stage.

"It was really crazy. The venue was huge, as it was in the mall, in the Iceplex, so there were two levels of people watching us," Krynski explains. "I think there were over 900 competitors. It was quite an experience, but it was a really nice place to get back into it. Everyone there was super great, and it was just awesome in general."

While this was the largest tournament Krynski has ever competed at, it was also her first major tournament back in nearly three years.

She picked up two wins and two losses in the U18 Division and competed in the Senior Division as well. The Portager is proud of her performance but notes she still has a ton of work to do.

Krynski outlines why she spent such a long period away from judo.

"COVID kind of messed it up for two years, and then I had an injury, so I couldn't fight for a while, too," says Krynski. "As I slowly started to get back into it, that's when COVID shut us down for two years."

She says she missed the sport a ton during her time away and notes meeting Olympian Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard inspired her to work even harder. Krynski adds she liked fighting away from home as she enjoyed the new environment and change of competitors. 

The local fighter ramped up her training at the beginning of the year.

"In January or February, I started training with the provincial team, as the opportunity came up to potentially be a part of the Canada Winter Games," Krynski explains. "I have started doing judo four days a week. Every day that I'm not fighting, I'm either working out or doing different training exercises, just to push myself as far as I can go."

Krynski says who qualifies for the Canada Winter Games in Manitoba is based on the choice of their coaches. She notes they take into account performance, work ethic, and how well one works with others. 

The local's next competition will be taking place in Montreal, as she takes part in the Canadian Open Championships. Krynski says she's thrilled to be taking this leap.

"I started judo seven years ago, and I wasn't always super great," Krynski continues. "So, I just really like to push myself and see what the best that I can be is. I think that's my end goal, to be the best that I can be for the sport in general. I also want to be a role model for younger kids, like my role models were for me."

Krynski will be competing in Montreal from May 19-22.