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Chows continue judo legacy


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POSTED: Sunday, May 10, 2009

For one year, Mindy Chow lived with the pressure of winning a state championship. For one year, the Punahou freshman carried the weight of being part of a judo family dynasty.

Last year, with her brother, Daniel, and her sister, Chrissy, winning individual championships and her father, Greg, leading the Punahou boys to a team title, the Chow name put an early bull's-eye on Mindy Chow's young back.

But the freshman handled it all with aplomb as she earned her first state title (122 pounds) yesterday at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association judo championships at the Stan Sheriff Center. Coupled with sister Chrissy's win at 115 pounds and Punahou's sweep of the boys and girls team championships, it was quite a day for the Chow family.

“;Last year at states, I remember seeing my brother and sister win and people coming up to me and saying, 'You're next,'”; Mindy Chow said. “;It was a little nerve-wracking, but I think I handled it OK.”;

To celebrate, Chrissy headed to the Kaiser High prom, Mindy was ditching her parents to go watch the new blockbuster movie, “;X-Men Origins: Wolverine,”; and Greg and his wife were to spend a quiet evening at home — alone.

It was yet another successful state judo championship for the Chows, with the boys team winning its third state title in four years and the girls team winning its first.

While the girls cruised to their state title, the Buffanblu boys had to hold off a serious challenge from Moanalua. Na Menehune had three individual winners to Punahou's two as Moanalua's Brady Lafortune continued his state dominance.

Lafortune, a junior, has won a state title in each of his three years, but he's done it in different weight classes. As a freshman, he earned the 108-pound championship. Last year, he won the 114-pound crown. And yesterday, he walked away with a victory at 121 pounds.

“;It doesn't seem like a very even win staying at the same weight for four years,”; he said. “;You can get a better challenge moving up in weights every year.”;

Next year, in an attempt to become just the second boy to win four state titles, he plans to compete at 132 or 145 pounds.

While Lafortune has been jumping around in weight, Farrington star Taylor Ibera has stayed happy at 98 pounds. Her opponents have probably been less than pleased, though, because Ibera has dominated the lightest weight class for four years.

And yesterday, she finished her Farrington career with her fourth state title, becoming just the second girl to accomplish that feat.

“;I knew there was a lot of pressure because I was going for my fourth state title, so I tried not to think about it,”; Ibera said.

Though the nerves gave her a restless sleep Friday night, she had little trouble dispatching her four opponents yesterday en route to the fourth state title. But for Ibera, there would be no great celebration, no big party to commemorate her accomplishment. Instead, she'll be back in the dojo tomorrow, working on her judo and preparing for her post-Farrington career.

“;It is a relief because now she can start a new chapter,”; said Farrington coach Whitney Elizaga, Ibera's older sister. “;Now she can plan on traveling more. She's ranked fifth nationally, so she's going to try to get points for Olympics and stuff like that. So this is a chapter closing and a new one beginning, so she's ready to go kick some adult butt.”;