Montréal, April 27th, 2012 – For a majority of judokas, this weekend’s competition, taking place at the McConnell arena in Montréal, will likely decide their fate for the upcoming Olympic Games. Such was the case for Kelita Zupancic, Friday. In claiming the bronze medal in the under 70 kg class, the Ontarian made a serious bid for the sole continental spot available to the Canadian Judo team for the London Games.
After defeating the American Kathleen Sell in her first bout, Zupancic lost by yuko in the semifinals to the Cuban Onix Cortez Aldama, the 11th ranked judoka. She took charge in her bronze medal fight, however, versus the Ecuadorian Vanessa Chala. Thanks to a stranglehold on the tatamis, her opponent was forced to concede, giving Zupancic the bronze medal victory half way through the bout.
“It’s my go-to maneuver. It was my plan to take her to ground,” explained Zupancic, visibly relieved after a long and arduous day of competition. “I was really stressed out. I knew that every one of my bouts would have a direct effect on my Olympic qualification. It was an emotionally draining day.”
Alexandre Émond captures the title
Among the judokas on the Canadian team, many are already mathematically assured of obtaining their automatic qualification for the London Games. Such is the case for Sergio Pessoa jr (- 60 kg), Nicholas Tritton (- 73 kg), Amy Cotton (- 78 kg), Antoine Valois-Fortier (- 81 kg) and Alexandre Émond (- 90 kg). The latter three were in competition today at McConnell Arena.
Alexandre Émond dominated in the under 90 kg category. After obtaining a bye through the first round, the Quebecer took out in successive bouts the Chilean Thomas Briceno and Uruguayan Juan Romero with ippons. The final was less decisive, taking an overtime period to decide the champion. In the end Émond was able to overcome the Cuban Asley Gonzalez, beating the 6th ranked judoka (3rd at the last World Championships) with a yuko.
“The crowd really helped me out,” Émond said, who was making a return to competition after a five-month layoff. “I had suffered from concussion-like symptoms at the end of last year. Since I had already qualified for the Olympics at that point, I decided not to take any further risks, cancelling all my competitions and training camps. With the London Games in sight, today was a good test for me. I wanted to find out how I measured up against the other judokas. Turns out I’m looking pretty good!” Explained Émond, who won his second Pan-American title.
Valois-Fortier swoops in for silver
Antoine Valois-Fortier also had an excellent competition in the under 81 kg division. He began his day with a win over the Mexican German Ayala followed by a victory against the Salvadorian Juan Diego Turcios with an ippon. In the semifinals against the Argentine Emmanuel Lucenti, the Quebecer took over the fight, winning with a waza-ari and two yukos. In the final, he put up a good fight against the Brazilian Leandro Guilheiro, no.1 ranked judoka in the world, but would eventually fall by way of a yuko.
“Of the three times I’ve faced him, this was easily my best effort, Valois-Fortier noted. That said, he still controlled the tempo of the fight. In order to beat him one day, I need to work on my footwork and ameliorate my kumikata.”
As for Amy Cotton, she won a bronze medal in the under 78 kg class. After beating the Guatemalan Mirla Nolberto Labriel, she lost in the semifinals to the Brazilian Mayra Aguiar. Cotton would come out on top in the bronze medal match, defeating the Ecuadorian Diana Chala with a yuko.
Elsewhere, Stéphanie Tremblay was in action in the under 63 kg category. After starting things off with a victory over the American Christal Ransom, she fell to the 14th ranked judoka, Cuban Yaritza Abel Rojas, in the semifinals. In the bronze medal final she would come up short again, this time to the Puerto Rican Jessica Garcia.
Finally, Ontarian Nedjo Sarenac (-100 kg) won his first fight with an ippon against the Mexican Julian Gutierrez before succumbing at the hands of Cuban judoka Oreydi Despaigne. His day would come to an end in the L bracket, losing to the Chilean Italo Cordova.
Saturday, Sasha Mehmedovic will attempt to guarantee his direct qualification into the London Games in the under 66 kg class. Joliane Melançon will have the same scenario in the under 57 kg division. Sergio Pessoa Jr. and Justin Imagwa will also be in action.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada
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