Hitting the mats at Carleton this year are two of Canada’s top judo athletes, brothers Emin and Dilyaver Sheykhislyamov.
The pair, who are both in first-year, are balancing their studies with judo conditioning as they train to represent Canada in the 2012 Olympics in London.
“[The Olympics are] a long way away, but that’s what we’re working for,” says Emin, 19.
The brothers train at the Club de Judo Ginkgo at the Cegep de L’Outaouais in Hull (Gatineau), which is part of the Outaouais Region Judo Association. Their father Alim also coaches at the Hull judo club, making it an easy choice when the Sheykhislyamov family decided to settle in the Ottawa region after moving from Saskatchewan this summer.
Earlier this year, the siblings cleared a major hurdle when they made Judo Canada’s National Team. They are currently ranked as two of the top judo athletes in the country. In May, Emin placed first in the Canadian Senior Judo Championships and first in the Junior Canadian Judo Championships in July.
“When I won, I felt like I really accomplished something — like when you finally get to the top of a mountain and see all the way you’ve gone,” he says.
Dilyaver, 20, was right behind him, placing third in the Canadian Senior Judo Championships.
For the Sheykhislyamov family, judo is in their blood. The boys’ father and coach, Alim, spent years competing on the former USSR National Judo team and managed his own judo club when they lived in Ukraine.
“Judo is his passion,” says Emin. “He introduced us to it when we were 10 years old.”
The boys trained with their father in Ukraine until two years ago when the family moved to Saskatchewan, where Alim accepted a position coaching a judo club.
Despite their skill and involvement in the sport, they were not well-known in Canada until their recent wins at the nationals — competitions they just narrowly entered because their landed-immigrant status arrived a day before the deadline to register for the national team.
The brothers are hoping to share their skills and passion for judo with others at Carleton. Their goal is to be able to host judo sessions at the university and they hope to resurrect a judo club.
While the pair may spend a lot of their time grappling on the mats, they say sibling rivalry isn’t an issue when it comes to competing against each other.
“It’s much better to meet your brother in the final than somebody else,” says Dilyaver. “At least the medal still goes to your family.”
Their drive to succeed isn’t exclusive to judo. Both brothers are serious about their studies at Carleton. Emin is working towards a science degree and Dilyaver is studying commerce. They juggle their school workload with 15 to 20 hours a week of training and tournaments.
“Other people do it, so I can too,” says Dilyaver, adding that his professors have been helpful in accommodating his judo commitments.
The intense combination of schooling and training for the Olympics will continue until at least March 2012, when the two will compete to qualify for the Canadian team.
“Judo is very dynamic. Athletes rise to the top one year and fall back the next,” explains Emin. “Three years is quite a span to excel.”
They see it as a challenge, not a deterrent. “We’re certainly on our way [to the Olympics],” says Emin. “It’s our goal.”