Less than 18 months before the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Judo Canada announces the coaches who will be following the Canadian judokas in their quest towards excellence.
Nicolas Gill, national head coach and High Performance director, will be accompanied by 3 other coaches. Michel Almeida will be the assistant for the men’s team while Sasha Mehmedovic will be taking the same role with the women. The team will be completed with Janusz Pawlowski, who is also the assistant coach for the national team since the beginning of this year.
“The assistant coach position for the men’s national team has been created a long time ago, but it had always been vacant. In order to optimize the athletes’ preparation for the Rio Olympic Games, it was our priority to fill it up,” explained Nicolas Gill, who is happy with Michel Almeida’s appointment.
A former judoka himself, Michel Almeida was a European champion and finished in 7th place during the Sidney Olympic Games in 2000. He has been coaching the Portuguese national team for the last 10 years. “He’s very up-to-date with what’s happening with judo in the world now, and that was an important criterion in our hiring process,” said Gill.
As the assistant coach for the women’s national team, Sasha Mehmedovic will be taking over from Jérémy Le Bris, who will be leaving his position at the end of the month. Member of the Olympic team in Beijing and London, Mehmedovic will also keep his position as the junior and cadet national team coach until his replacement is appointed.
“At this point in the Olympic cycle, our priority was to strengthen our senior team. We will take the time we need to fill up the junior’s coach position,” said Nicolas Gill.
Mehmedovic have already led many members of the women’s national team, since a lot of them were recently part of the junior team. “For them, it will be the continuation of the work they’ve already done with Sasha.”
“Sasha has been a part of the Canadian system for a long time, which gives him a good knowledge of how we work. It’ll be easier for the athletes to adapt, as well as for Michel.”
Mehmedovic will be starting in his new position during the Pan American Championships at the end of the month. It’ll also be Jérémy Le Bris’ swan song, who’s leaving the national team for personal reasons.
“Jérémy has given us a lot and we were sad to learn he’d be leaving us,” said Nicolas Gill. “He has been part of the new Canadian judo history by being very active in the transition from the national center to the Institut national du sport de Québec. His short stay with us will always be a defining period, and he was part of our recent success. I wish him the best of luck in his new challenges.”
The Pan American Championships, which will be held in Edmonton from April 24 to 26, will be the last international competition for the first year of the qualifying process for the Rio Games.
“For some athletes, it’ll be their last chance to stay in the game. For others, it’ll allow them to strengthen their position,” said Gill.
The second year of the selection process will be marked by the World Championships in August. “Every tournament will be very important and probably very emotional for several athletes,” explained the coach.
However, Gill is confident that with the coaches who were chosen, Canadian judokas will keep shining on the international stage.
“The athletes will be in good hands with the coaches. Sasha and I will give them the stability they need, allowing Michel and the future junior coach to be comfortable in their new position,” he concluded.
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