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Tokyo Grand Slam = Zupancic comes away with a bronze medal

Montréal, December 6, 2014 – Ontarian judoka Kelita Zupancic climbed to the third step of the podium, Saturday, at the Tokyo Grand Slam presented in Japan.

“It was really great to win my first ever medal at a Tokyo Grand Slam today,” the 24-year-old athlete affirmed.

“Kelita had a really good day,” added national team coach Jeremy Le Bris. “She was able to take advantage of a pretty open draw.”

After benefitting from a bye through the first round, Kelita Zupancic, 3rd in the world in the under 70 kg class, took on the Swiss Juliane Robra (31st). Zupancic scored two yukos before finally immobilizing her opponent on the ground for an ippon.

In her next match, the Whitby-native took down the 7th ranked Brit Sally Conway, winning with a waza-ari. With the victory, she was awarded a bye into the semifinals.

It was there that, up against the Japanese Haruka Tachimoto (46th), Zupancic would drop her one and only bout of the tournament. “I made a mistake in the semis that ended up costing me the fight,” mentioned the Canadian, who lost by ippon.

“Zupancic put herself in a vulnerable position after making one of her attacks. She got caught with her arm locked behind her back, and when she tried to escape she went the wrong way,” Jeremy Le Bris explained. “She opened the door for her opponent to hold her down on the ground.”

The Ontarian judoka was able to rebound well in the bronze medal match, coming away victorious by ippon against the 17th ranked Japanese, Karen Nun Ira. “I was able to get my revenge in the bronze finale, defeating the other Japanese who beat me this summer at the World Championships,” Zupancic concluded.

In the same category, Monika Burgess, 49th in the world, was eliminated in her opening bout. The athlete from Waterloo, Ontario succumbed to defeat by ippon versus the 22nd ranked Frenchwoman Gevrise Emane.

Étienne Briand finishes 9th

On the men’s side, Étienne Briand came away with the best Canadian result, finishing with a 9th place classification in the under 73 kg division.

“He defeated the judokas that he should beat,” Le Bris pointed out. “As a result, Étienne came away with his best ever finish at a Grand Slam event.”

“Finishing 9th is nice, but it’s not like my performance was earth shattering or anything,” Briand said.

The 39th ranked Quebecois won his first bout against the Romanian Robert Florian Papp, 363rd. The judoka hailing from Sept-Îles then took on the Cuban Magdiel Estrada, who currently sits 26th overall. Despite taking three penalties in the contest, Briand still managed to come away with the win by a waza-ari. “Some of the penalties were questionable,” he mentioned. “It made the win a bit more complicating.”

Up next for the Quebecer was the Japanese Shohei Ono, ranked 26th and the gold medallist at the 2013 World Championships. After taking three early penalties, Briand was thrown by his opponent, who scored a match-winning ippon with the manoeuver.

“It’s the second time that I’ve lost to him. I would have liked to have put him in more danger, but i wasn’t able to.”

Antoine Valois-Fortier, who currently sits 2nd overall in the under 81 kg standings, profited from a bye into the second round. The Beauport-native then went on to win his first bout, defeating the Moldovan Valeriu Duminica (37th) by an ippon.

In the 3rd round, Valois-Fortier was upset by the 36th ranked German Alexander Wieczerak, who won with an ippon. “The fight was evenly matched, but after Antoine had gone on a big attack, the German was able to lock him in a stranglehold. Antoine was immobilized, and was forced to concede the match,” his coach explained.

Still in the under 73 kg category, Montrealer Arthur Margelidon, ranked 44th in the world, was defeated in the first round against the 16th ranked Frenchman Pierre Duprat, in what was a close match. Margelidon lost by the smallest of margins, taking two shidos to his opponent’s one.

On Sunday, Ana Laura Portuondo Isasi (-78 kg) and Kyle Reyes (-100 kg) will be the Canadians to watch.