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Kelita Zupancic crowned Pan-American Champion

Canadians claim six medals on opening day

Montréal, April 19, 2013 – Ontarian Kelita Zupancic took home top honours, Friday night, at the Pan-American Championships taking place in San Jose, Costa Rica. Participating in the under 70 kg category, the 22-year-old athlete led the Canadian contingent, which amassed six medals on the first day of competition. On the women’s side, Catherine Roberge and Amy Cotton placed second and third, respectively, in the under 78 kg division. The men did equally well, with Antoine Valois-Fortier (-81 kg) claiming the silver medal, while Alexandre Émond (-90 kg) and Dilyaver Sheykhislyamov (-100 kg) both came away with bronze medals on the day.

Bronze medallist at the 2012 Pan-American Championships in Montréal, Zupancic took her game to a whole other level in San Jose, eliminating the American Kathleen Sell, the Puerto Rican Maria Perez and the Ecuadorean Vanessa Chala to reach the final.  Taking on the Cuban Onix Cortes Aldama, Zupancic took full advantage of her opportunity, winning the match and more importantly, claiming Pan-American gold. ”I lost to the Cuban last year so beating her here in the finals was icing on the cake. It was a tactical fight. I was strong on the grips and kept it a fast pace fight. I was confident for the other bouts because they were competitors I have beaten before,” she went on to point out.

Also in the under 70 kg class, Quebecer Alix Renaud-Roy finished in 7thplace.

In the Under 78 kg division, Catherine Roberge made the final, where she was beaten by the Brazilian Mayra Aguiar. Despite the loss, the Quebecoise would still walk away with a well deserved silver medal.

En route to the final, Roberge beat the Ecuadorean Diana Chala and the Venezuelan Keivi Pintp.

Also in the under 78 kg division, Amy Cotton put together wins versus the Guatemalan Mirla Nolberto and the Cuban Kaliema Antomarchi, putting her into a semi-final matchup with Aguiar. Defeated by the Brazilian, Cotton still managed to pick up a medal, taking out the American Samantha Bleier in the battle for 3rd place.

In the – 63 kg class, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard settled for a 5th place finish after falling to the Colombian Diana Velasco in the bronze medal match.

Silver for a second straight year

Like he did in Montréal a year earlier, Antoine Valois-Fortier came away with a silver medal, falling just short in the final of the under 81 kg category.

After obtaining a bye into the second round of competition, Valois-Fortier beat the Puerto Rican Gadiel Miranda along with the Chilean Fernando Salazar, before taking on the Cuban Jorge Martinez in the semi-finals. “He’s a new judoka on the international scene and he did quite well lately, notably in Belgium. I knew he would be a good test, so it was a bout I really wanted to win,” Valois-Fortier, who eventually won by ippon, noted.  He wasn’t in the best shape, so I managed to win by hanging on until the end, where he fatigued,” he explained.

In the final, Valois-Fortier took on the no.2 judoka in the world, the Brazilian Victor Penalber. “I was up against a top class opponent, admitted the 23-year-old athlete. I put together a good bout, but he surprised me in the last minute and a half, throwing me to ground for an ippon.”

Valois-Fortier, 8th in the world, was also beaten by the Brazilian Leandro Guilheiro, currently ranked 8th, in 2012. “I don’t have a very good track record against Brazilians, he explained laughingly. I’m going to work extra hard with the goal of beating them all at the Rio Olympic Games!”

Defending Pan-American champion in the under 90 kg class, Alexandre Émond was beaten in the quarterfinals this time around.  Not to be denied, the Quebecer would then go on to win his repechage bout, followed by a victory over the Venezuelan Mervin Rodrigues which put him onto the podium with a 3rd place finish.

In the under 100 kg category, Dilyaver Sheykhislyamov won his first two fights before falling to the Brazilian Renan Nunes in the semi-finals. He would recover however, going on to claim the bronze medal with a victory over the Argentinean Hector Campos.

Beaten twice in two bouts, the New Brunswick native James McManus failed to receive a classification.

Saturday, Jessica Klimkait (48 kg), Audrey Francis-Méthot (52 kg) and Joliane Melançon (57 kg) will be in action on the women’s side. Canadians Benjamin Daviau (55 kg), Nicolas DiBartolo (60 kg), Patrick Gagné (66 kg), Sasha Mehmedovic (66 kg), Alexis Morin-Martel (73 kg) and Étienne Briand (73 kg will be on display for the men’s contingent.