Christa Deguchi, judoka (born 29 October 1995 in Nagano, Japan). Christa Deguchi is the only Canadian ever to win a gold medal at the World Judo Championships. The Japanese Canadian judoka won the bronze medal at the 2018 World Judo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, and a gold medal at the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. Deguchi competes in the women’s 57 kg weight class and is a member of the Kyodokan Judo Club in Lethbridge, Alberta. She was considered one of Canada’s top athletes heading into the postponed 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
Family Background and Childhood
Christa Deguchi was born in Japan. Her father, Tom Taylor, is a Canadian citizen from Winnipeg. Christa’s mother, Yukina Deguchi, is from Nagano, Japan. Tom initially travelled to Japan to work as an English instructor. Christa has a younger sister, Kelly, who also competes for Canada in judo in the women’s 57 kg weight class.
Christa began judo at the age of three. A family friend who was a judo sensei recommended that Christa try martial arts. She had her first match at the age of four; it lasted four seconds. However, Christa did not realize the match was over. She got right back up and was ready to continue competing. The sensei stopped Christa and taught her how to bow.
Deguchi told the International Judo Federation in an interview that she “hated” judo as a youngster. However, she continued to persevere and progressed with the sport during her high school years. Due to the prominence of judo in Japanese culture, Christa also felt significant pressure competing for Japan. “What am I going to do if I lose?” she once asked an interviewer in 2019.
Judo Canada Shows Interest
Christa Deguchi’s first significant international accomplishment came when she won a junior competition for athletes 20 and under in France in 2011. Deguchi, age 16, won the gold medal in the 52 kg category.
Deguchi’s remarkable success against athletes much older than her caught the attention of Judo Canada’s Nicolas Gill, a two-time Canadian Olympic medalist. In 2012, Gill approached Deguchi multiple times about joining Judo Canada. Deguchi chose to continue to represent Japan.
Success Competing for Japan
In 2013, Deguchi made the permanent switch to the women’s 57 kg category and became the national junior champion in Japan. She also won the bronze medal at the 2013 World Junior Judo Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia, as well as the gold medal at a Grand Prix event in Jeju, South Korea. Deguchi made headlines when she won the bronze medal at the 2013 Tokyo Grand Slam; she beat world champion Rafaela Silva of Brazil and world championship bronze medalist Miryam Roper of Germany.
The 2014 judo season saw Deguchi win silver medals at a World Cup in Rome, at the Japanese National Junior Judo Championship in Saitama, and at the World Junior Judo Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Deguchi also won a bronze medal at the Japanese National Judo Championship in Fukuoka at the age of 18.
Switch to Judo Canada
After the 2014 season, Deguchi was finally persuaded by Nicolas Gill to switch national teams. However, since she had already competed for Japan internationally, she could not represent Canada immediately; she had to wait two years for international clearance. She did not compete internationally in 2015 and 2016, but she did participate in the Japanese National Junior Judo Championships for a final time in 2015 and won bronze. Deguchi also won four consecutive Japanese University Team Championships with her school, Yamanashi Gakuin University, between 2014 and 2017.
When Deguchi first practiced with Team Canada in Montreal, she was stunned at what she saw. “They [the Canadian female judokas] wore makeup during practice, something that was unthinkable in Japan. One of them even wore pierced earrings.” She also noticed that coaches in Canada did not “scold” athletes like they did in Japan and “instead they made suggestions.”
Despite the culture shocks, Deguchi was impressed with the work ethic and kindness of her new teammates. In 2017, Deguchi joined the Kyodokan Judo Club in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Deguchi’s first time representing Canada was at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in the United Arab Emirates in October 2017. Deguchi lost her first and only match to Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia in overtime.
In 2018, Deguchi returned to top form. She won gold medals at the European Open in Odivelas, Portugal; at the Paris Grand Slam in France; at the Pan American Senior Championship in San Jose, California; and back-to-back Grand Prix titles in Hohhot, China, and Zagreb, Croatia.
2018 World Championship
On 22 September 2018, Deguchi made history by becoming the first female Canadian judoka to win a medal at the World Judo Championship. In the women’s 57 kg weight class, Deguchi won Pool D after wins over Hyo Sun Ri of North Korea, Corina Stefan of Romania and Nora Gjakova of Kosovo. After losing to Yoshida in the semifinal, she beat Theresa Stoll of Germany to win bronze.
Deguchi had a hot start to the 2019 season, winning the first four events she competed in: the Paris Grand Slam; Ekaterinburg Grand Slam; the Pan American Seniors Judo Championship in Lima, Peru; and the Montreal Grand Prix. The event in Montreal was significant because it was the first time a Grand Prix judo competition took place in Canada.
Deguchi became the first Canadian to win a gold medal at the World Judo Championships in Tokyo in 2019. She went undefeated in the women’s 57-kilogram division at the championships. She beat Anastasiia Konkina of Russia, Jovana Rogic of Serbia and Sarah Leonie Cysique of France in Pool C, Ivelina Ilieva of Belarus in the semifinals and Yoshida in the gold medal final.
To begin the 2020 season, Deguchi won the Paris Grand Slam for the third year in a row. She won all five of her matches and then beat Cysique in the semifinals and Dorjsuren in the final.
Even though Deguchi was ranked number one in the world in the women’s 57 kg division as of July 2020, there is not a guarantee that she will have the opportunity to compete for Canada at the Olympic Games. Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ontario, is currently ranked second in the world. Under International Olympic Committee guidelines, there can only be one judoka per country of the same gender and weight class. Under Judo Canada qualification guidelines, a best-of-three series would be required to determine the judoka who will represent Canada at the Olympic Summer Games.