Mark Berger landed in his new home of choice and exploded onto the judo scene. The impact of this young immigrant from the Ukraine and East Germany was felt across Canada and around the world.
In 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympics Games, he became only the second Canadian to earn a medal (bronze) in judo. Berger might have had an earlier Olympic medal in 1980 had Canada not boycotted the Moscow Games.
“He could not speak English back then in the mid 70’s when he arrived here,” said Moe Oye, the coach who took Berger under his wing. “He could sure fight though.” He was big, stocky and powerful at 260 pounds, but those attributes alone do not make an Olympian. Fortunately, Berger had uncanny speed and skill, unusual traits for a husky man. “Mark was so quick and powerful he literally exploded into his technical manoeuvres. Once a man of his stature and skill moved on you, it was game over.”
Berger’s meteoric rise came in 1978, with a gold medal performance in the Western Canada Games. His first national medals, bronzes, came a year later in Canada Cup and Openweight championships. By 1980 Berger was dominating the national scene and earned his first international medal for Canada, a bronze, in the United States Open. He continued to be a national champion while earning a gold medal in the 1981 Maccabean Games in Israel and 1982 U.S. Open.
“Mark’s determination and desire to win set him apart from most athletes,” said Oye in reflecting upon Berger pinning a gold medal on his chest at the 1983 Pan-Am Games and being voted the province’s Athlete of the Year. Mark Berger carried that determination into the L.A. Olympics and finished fifth in the World Championships in 1984.
b. January 3, 1954