Montreal, August 7, 2016 – Antoine Bouchard hit the mat no fewer than six times at Rio’s Arena Carioca today. After four solid wins and two losses, one of which in the fight for one of the bronze medals, he ended the Under 66 kg competition in fifth place.
On his way there, the 21-year-old Jonquière athlete disposed of the third and second best athletes of the division, Russian Mikhail Puliavev, in the round of 32, and Mongolian Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg, in his first repechage bout.
“I managed to eliminate some high seeds today,” said Bouchard. “Without a doubt, these were some of the most important victories of my career. Of course it pains me a little to lose, but I am proud of what I’ve done today.”
Chronologically, Antoine Bouchard won his first three matches, and then lost in the quarter-finals to Slovenia’s Andrian Gomboc, who would also go on to finish fifth.
In repechage, he beat the Mongolian, to whom he had lost twice before.
“I kind of had an idea what to expect from him,” he said. “When he took his first shido, I had a bit of an energy boost. But that also got him to change his strategy to be more aggressive.”
Finally, Bouchard succumbed to three-time world champion and London Olympic bronze medallist in 2012, Japanese Masashi Ebinuma, who walked away with yet another bronze in Rio.
Bouchard’s unique judo style mystified his opponents throughout the day, giving the Canadian an advantage he explored with impressive determination. His consistent game plan, match after match, putting his favourite technique, the uchi-mata, front and centre, proved to be fruitful.
“During the fights, I didn’t quite realize what was going on, I was so concentrated,” he explained. “I didn’t linger on what I had done; I focused on what I had to do to get to a medal.”
The Under 66 kg podium was made up of Italian Fabio Basile, the day’s big surprise, who took the gold away from the world’s reigning champion, South Korean Baul An, who went home with the silver. The second bronze medal went to Uzbekistan’s Rishod Sobirov.
Ecaterina Guica Loses First Match to Bronze Medallist
Meanwhile, Ecaterina Guica had a considerably shorter day. The Montrealer had her Olympic experience cut short after her very first match, against Russian Natalia Kuziutina, seventh in the world and two-time World Championship bronze medallist. She lost by two yuko, despite a very determined beginning in the match. Kuziutina would go on to win one of the two Under 52 kg bronze medals.
Guica explains her technical difficulties in the fight against a left-handed judoka, like herself. “Even when I had her left hand, it was really difficult for me to get mine in and open up a little. She crossed me like a right-hander, which took me by surprise. I had a hard time imposing my judo.”
After an Olympic experience that only lasted four minutes, the 22-year-old managed to keep a sense of proportion about the situation. “Four years can’t be summarized in just one day, the day of the Games. There’s everything you did to get there, especially the months right before the competition, when you focus on preparing, on developing your judo. I definitely feel like a better judoka than before.”
Majlinda Kelmendi, flag-bearer for Kosovo at the opening ceremony, climbed onto the top step of the Under 52 kg podium. Italian Odette Giuffrida earned the silver, and Japan’s Misato Nakamura got her hands on the other bronze.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada
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