This city’s sports community recognizes Russell Ko’s achievements with his induction into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame. That recognition is significant; the World judo community has also recognized his talents.
One of just 10 A-level judo referees in Canada, Ko has made nearly 15 international trips to meets such as the Jigoro Kano Cup in Tokyo in 1994, the Judo World Masters in 1991 and 1994, the French Open in 1997 and the U.S. Open in 1994. He also refereed at the Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 and at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
But the best may be yet to come. Ko has been informed he is a candidate to referee at the world junior judo championships at Cali, Colombia, later this year.
“The ultimate goal is to referee a world senior championship,” notes Ko. “It’s the highest level you can get.”
A high-ranking B.C. competitor, Ko competed at the national championships in 1976. His growth to coach – he formed the College Heights Judo Club in 1984 – and referee was a natural progression, he says.
“As you mature in the sport, you end up doing different things,” he says. “Most of the time, twice or three times a week, you’re involved with coaching your athletes and once in a while you are going away to do the refereeing.”
In addition to working on his sixth-level black belt, Ko has been running the College Heights club since its inception 14 years ago. Some of his athletes have won medals at national championships.
“I think the biggest thing is the satisfaction of seeing the young people learning the sport and advancing in the sport,” he says.
Not only has Ko taken the name of the City of Prince George across Canada and around the world, so have his athletes. Because of this, he has rightly found a place in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.