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African Open – Étienne Briand takes home gold in Casablanca

Montréal, January 25, 2014 – The Quebecois Étienne Briand came away with a gold medal in the under 73 kg category, Saturday, at the African Open presented in Casablanca, Morocco. Fellow Canadians Patrick Gagné and Michael Fortin-Demers joined Briand on the podium, both finishing 3rd in the same division. On the women’s side, Ecaterina Guica had the best performance of the day, finishing the competition with a silver medal in the under 52 kg category.

Briand started his tourney in fine form, taking out the Yemenite Zeyad Mater, the Russian Pavel Malakhov, and the Ghanaian Emmanuel Nartey all by way of an ippon. In the semi-finals, Briand kept his ippon run intact, beating fellow Canadian Arthur Margelidon in convincing fashion. Margelidon had been on a solid run of his own, previously defeating the Tunisian Med Aziz Ghazaouani, the Belgian Sami Chouchi and the Spaniard David Paco Sanchez. In the gold medal match, Briand came out on top versus the Belgian Jean Yves Bottieau, winning by two shidos to one.

“I’m very happy with how things went today. It’s definitely one of the most important victories of my career,” explained 20 years old Etienne Briand. “I won all of my bouts by ippon except for one, and I fought a lot of good opponents. My fight against the Russian was probably the most difficult. I was also extremely satisfied with my performance versus the Ghanaian who I had to come from behind to beat.”

“He fought very well, said Canadian coach Sasha Mehmedovic. He looked good all day and made very little mistakes. In the quarter finals, he beat a player who is currently ranked 28th in the world (Emmanuel Nartey). It was a well earned gold medal for him.”

As for Margelidon, he finished the competition with a 5th place classification after losing his bronze medal bout by a shido to his compatriot Patrick Gagné.  The latter won his first two matches by ippon against the New Zealander Adrian Leat and the Spaniard Javier Ramirez before dropping his quarterfinal bout to Bottieau. Gagné then went on to win his repechage fight by ippon against the Frenchman Arthur Clerget.

Michael Fortin-Demers also walked away with a bronze medal in the under 73 kg class after defeating the Spaniard David Paco Sanchez by ippon. The Quebecer had previously beaten the Spaniard Ares Herrero Osorno, the Tunisian Hamza Barhoumi and the Frenchman Arthur Clerget before taking down Bottieau in the semifinals.

In the under 60 kg category, Gueorgui Poklitar won his first bout against the Belgian Adlan Katchikaev before succumbing to defeat in the next round versus the Frenchman Sofiane Milous, the eventual silver medalist.

In the same division, Nicolas Di Bartolo lost his very first bout by ippon against the Belgian Senne Wyns. Charles Breton Leduc also saw his tourney come to an end in the first round, falling to the Moroccan Ayoub El Idrissi.

In the under 66 kg class, Antoine Bouchard came away with a 7th place classification. After winning early bouts against the Spaniard Carlos Cases and the Frenchman Kilian Le Blouch, the Quebecer was taken down in the quarterfinals by the Tunisian Houcem Khalfaoui, losing by an ippon. In the repechage, Bouchard was again beaten, this time by the Turk Sinan Sandal, who won with a yuko and an ippon.

In the same division, Alister Ward was eliminated in the 3rd round. After benefitting from a bye into the second round, the Canadian won his duel with the Spaniard David Ramos Ramirez. He then lost to the Belgian Kenneth Van Gansbeke, who went on to claim the gold medal.

Ecaterina Guica impresses

On the women’s side, Ecaterina Guica came up just short in her quest for gold, finishing 2nd in the under 52 kg category.  The Quebecoise beat the Belgian Evi Vermandere and the Turk Bura Akyol by ippon to book her spot in the finals. In the gold medal match, she fell by way of an ippon to the Frenchwoman Annabelle Euranie.

“Ecaterina started the day very strong, explained Mehmedovic. In the finals, she matched up with a more experienced fighter from France (Euranie) who is a former world silver medalist. She is still young and lacks some experience but overall she had a great day.”

Earlier in the tournament, Euranie had defeated her teammate and fellow Quebecer, Audrée Françis Méthot, the latter going on to lose in the repechage to another Frenchwoman, Elodie Grou.

In the under 57 kg class, Stéfanie Tremblay was eliminated in her first bout against the Tunisian and eventual silver medallist, Meriem Bjaoui. Béatrice Valois-Fortier suffered the same fate in the under 63 kg category, falling to the Spaniard Isabel Puche who would eventually make her way all the way to the gold medal final.

Sunday, Canadians Jonah Burt, Zachary Burt, Ian Campbell and Louis Krieber-Gagnon will all be in action in the under 81 kg division, while Brandon Jobb will take to the tatamis in the under 90 kg class.

On the women’s side, Monika Burgess and Alix Renaud-Roy will be the ones to watch at -70 kg. The Quebecers Sarah-Myriam Mazouz and Ana Laura Portuondo Isasi will also be in action in the under 78 kg category.