Judo Champ Balances Studies With Sports

Biomedical engineering student trains six days a week

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Pratham Singh

Pratham Singh

Pratham Singh has practiced judo for more than half of his life, and he has the medal to show for his dedication to the sport. The 18-year-old biomedical engineering student won gold last month at the 2013 Ontario Open judo tournament in Toronto. He is now training for nationals, to be held in Vancouver in July.

“A lot of intense training went into that win,” says Singh, who spends six days a week training at Kaizen Judo and Fitness in Kitchener, Ont. Aside from judo, which takes about 12 to 15 hours of training per week, his regimen also includes weight training, cross-fit training and yoga. He sometimes takes part in a free noon-hour yoga class on Tuesdays in UC 442.

Spending as much time on judo as he would at a part-time job doesn’t leave much time for school work, he admits, especially since he usually returns from practice at around 10 or 11 p.m. Any spare time he has during the week or on weekends is spent on homework.

Singh describes his winning match against a more experienced competitor as a battle between David and Goliath. “I wanted to prove myself,” he says. “This was the best chance I had.” He threw his opponent onto the mat in less than a minute.

His father, Anand, introduced Pratham to the sport when he was six years old. “He picked me up from school one day, and I thought he was going to take a right to go home,” says Pratham. Instead, his father turned left and took him to a judo practice. “I stuck with it ever since.”

This summer, Singh is working as an undergraduate student research assistant in Prof. Alejandro Marangoni’s lab in the Department of Food Science. Marangoni’s research team is developing heat-resistant chocolate among other food-related projects.

It was Marangoni who introduced Anand, a colleague and former associate professor in food science, to judo. Pratham’s mother, Jaspreet Kaur, also works at U of G as a biochemistry lab co-ordinator in the Science Complex. Having two parents who work at the University influenced his decision to attend U of G. He was also drawn by the sense of community on campus. “It was my first pick.” Graduating high school with a 90-per-cent average earned him an entrance scholarship.

Singh attended the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, but he couldn’t get tickets to any of the judo matches. Does he have any Olympic ambitions of his own? “We’ll see. If the cards are in my favour, then for sure, why not? But my parents always told me school comes first.” He was recently certified to coach young children in judo. “Passing on that passion would be an even greater accomplishment for me.” Judo has made him stronger, both physically and mentally, and he says it could help schoolchildren build confidence to stand up to bullies.

After he graduates from U of G, he plans to apply to medical school and become a sports physician. “I’ve always been fascinated by how the body moves in sports situations.” If that doesn’t work out, he would like to work in biomedical engineering, which he says can lead to many different career paths, such as diagnostic imaging or prosthetics. “Engineering is such a broad field; I could fit anywhere.”