Montreal, April 24, 2015 – Kelita Zupancic enabled Team Canada to start the Pan American Judo Championships on the right foot Friday, with her gold medal win in Edmonton, Alberta, while teammates Antoine Valois-Fortier and Kyle Reyes both earned bronze medals.
After receiving a pass to exempt her from the opening round in the Under 70kg class, Whitby’s Zupancic met Quebec teammate Alix Renaud-Roy on the tatami – Renaud-Roy having previously bested Mexico’s Debanhi Ochoa. The Ontario resident won the round thanks to penalties.
Facing Ecuador’s Vanessa Chala in the semi-final, Zupancic – ranked fourth in the world in her class – scored the victory with an ippon. In the final round against Columbia’s Yuri Alvear (ranked third in the world; current World Champion) the Canadian judoka won the gold medal.
“What an incredible day for Kelita! For the first time ever, she won against Columbian athlete Alvear – a three-time World Champion with a waza-ari at the last minute, a great performance. Kelita was eager for this match, since she had been paired Alvear several times in the past. It’s a bit of sweet revenge – especially given that the competition is in Canada; this will be a memorable moment in her career,” confirmed Team Canada Head Coach Nicolas Gill.
Meanwhile, Renaud-Roy (world-ranked 43rd) continued competitions into overtime rounds, where she stepped onto the mat against Cuba’s Onix Cortes Aldama (world-ranked 20th). The native of La Pocatière, Quebec was beaten with a yuko but ended today’s competitions in seventh place.
In the Under 78kg class, Beauport, Quebec’s Catherine Roberge, finished in fifth place. After receiving a pass to skip the opening round in her weight class, Roberge – ranked 15th in the world – used an ippon to beat Ecuador’s Diana Chala (ranked 38th). In the semi-final against American, current Olympic Champion, and world-ranked 6th judoka Kayla Harrison, Roberge was beaten by ippon. Undaunted, the Canadian went on to the bronze medal match but had to cede her place and that victory to Cuba’s Kaliema Antomarchi.
In the same weight category, Ana Laura Portuondo Isasi (ranked 26th) won her first bout against Columbia’s Luisa Bonilla before herself losing via ippon to Cuba’s Yallenis Castillo (ranked 20th). The Montrealer had a chance to turn the tide in overtime rounds against another Cuban athlete – Kaliema Antomarchi – but sadly saw another defeat by ippon and finished the day in seventh place.
In the Under 63kg, Saguenay Quebec’s Stéfanie Tremblay and Beauport’s Béatrice Valois-Fortier both saw their days end in the first round. Tremblay was bettered by Cuba’s Olga Masferrer while Valois-Fortier was defeated by Cuban judoka Maylin Del Toro Carvajal.
Men Made of Bronze: Valois-Fortier and Reyes!
Antoine Valois-Fortier may have finished with a bronze medal, but it was a bitter victory. The world-number-two ranked judoka in the Under 81kg class started his day with a win by ippon against Chile’s Juan Diego Turcios. Things soon changed however, as Valois-Fortier of Beauport (Quebec) was himself beaten by ippon in the semi-final against Argentina’s Emmanuel Lucenti (ranked 34th).
In the bronze medal final, Valois-Fortier once again found his winning ways and dominated Columbia’s Pedro Castro – winning the bout in penalties.
“I have to say I’m disappointed; I didn’t come here for this result. Over the past few months while preparing I had a lot of minor but bothersome injuries so I don’t feel like I’m the most ready right now,” commented Valois-Fortier. “In the semi-final, I was generally ahead but I was surprised by that ippon and lost. The bronze medal round was pretty close, but I was able to put in some sold attacks and was able to win,” he added.
“Antoine was better technically – more so than I expected. However I would also say that his decision-making wasn’t as clear as we would have liked. Overall, I think he was worried a little too much by a feeling of lack of training, and that was enough to keep him off his game at certain key points. In the end a small error sadly cost him a spot in the finals, but honestly a few short weeks ago, even his participation here was looking iffy; had we been able to tell him at that point that he’d finish with a bronze I’m sure he would have been happy,” analyzed Coach Gill.
Also competing in the Under 81kg class, Oshawa Ontario’s Zachary Burt was defeated in the opening round by Uruguay’s Alain Aprahamian.
In his first match in the Under 100kg class, Toronto’s Kyle Reyes (world-ranked 23rd) got the better of Trinidad and Tobago’s Christopher George, the latter of whom surprised Laval (Quebec) native Marc Deschênes in the opening round. In the semi-final Reyes duelled with Brazil’s Luciano Correa – who won the round in penalties. Reyes accessed overtime however, and in one of two bouts for a bronze medal, triumphed over Mexico’s Sergio Garcia.
“Kyle is recovering from an injury sustained in December,” commented Coach Gill. ”It hasn’t been a very long time since he started back training and his return has been bumpy – he is still injured and thus not really at his best. He lost in the semi-final but did dominate the bout, his attacks were the most dangerous,” concluded Gill. “Kyle’s goal in coming here was to earn precious points for his first year of Olympic selection, and we knew that with his talent he would be able to get onto the podium, even if he wasn’t quite at his usual capacity,” mused Team Canada’s Head Coach.
Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard, Antoine Bouchard, Étienne Briand, Patrick Gagné, Ecaterina Guica, Arthur Margelidon and Youssef Youssef will be the Canadian judokas to watch on the tatami Saturday, as individual competitions continue.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada