Montreal, February 12, 2017 – Kelita Zupancic pulled off a second silver medal at the prestigious Paris Grand Slam on Sunday. Once again achieving her career best, the judoka from Whitby climbed to the second level of the podium in the U70 kg category.
“I think that, like any athlete, she would have preferred to finish at the top with the gold medal. But the Paris Grand Slam is one of the highest-level tournaments in the world and just standing on the podium, be it with a gold, silver, or bronze medal, is definitely a good feeling,” noted Sasha Mehmedovic, coach for the women’s national team.
Ontario’s Zupancic, who snagged a silver medal at the 2013 tournament as well, vanquished her three first opponents on Sunday before bowing out to the young Japanese sensation Chizuru Arai in the final. Last December, Arai defeated Zupancic in the semi-final at the Tokyo Grand Slam.
In Sunday’s action, Arai began by scoring a waza-ari in the middle of the bout, then followed with an arm lock that gave her an ippon. On the floor, the Japanese athlete didn’t give Zupancic a chance, flipping her quickly before pinning her.
“I think she caught Kelita completely by surprise on the ground. It happened very quickly. To be honest, I can’t explain exactly how she got Kelita onto her back,” admitted the coach, “I think Arai really surprised her technically and she couldn’t find a solution, she couldn’t get out of it. ”
“The Japanese women are very good technically and with grips. Anytime you face one of them, you know you’re in for a tough match. That was proven again today.”
At only 23 years of age, Arai is already one of the women to beat in the U70 kg class. Currently ranked third in the world, she was crowned champion at the Tokyo Grand Slam in December 2015 and at the Tyumen Grand Slam in 2016, and she finished second both in Tokyo and at the Düsseldorf Grand Prix.
Tough, Experienced Opponents
Zupancic, who finished 7th at the Rio Olympic Games, started the day by quickly scoring an ippon against Nihel Bouchoucha of Tunisia in a bout that lasted only a minute and 20 seconds.
Currently ranked 17th in the international standings, she then went on to beat France’s Marie-Ève Gahié, who is ranked 7th in the world, with a waza-ari.
In the semi-final, she overcame South Korea’s Jeyoung You in a backbreaking bout that lasted eight minutes and 29 seconds. You received a penalty in Golden Score.
“Kelita was pitted against tough, experienced opponents today. She took it one match at a time and I could see that she was very determined. I’m very proud of her, very happy for her. Maybe next time she meets Arai, the outcome will be different…” hinted Mehmedovic.
Two other Canadians competed on Sunday in the U90 kg class. However, neither Louis Krieber-Gagnon nor Zachary Burt made it past their first bouts.
Krieber-Gagnon, of Montreal, succumbed to an ippon by Faruch Bulekulov of Kyrgyzstan after two minutes and 26 seconds, while Burt, originally from Oshawa and now living in Montreal, bowed out to Tajikistan’s Komronshokh Ustopiriyon in overtime.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada
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