Montreal, February 20, 2016 (Sportcom) – This Saturday was quite productive for the Canadian judokas competing in the Düsseldorf Grand Prix, in Germany – not so much in terms of points, but certainly in experience. All of the Maple Leafers were eliminated before they could get to the medal round, but the competition pitted them against some heavy hitters with whom they might cross paths again on the way to the Rio games.
In the Under 73 kg, Arthur Margelidon started out the competition with two victories, by ippon over Qatar’s Khalil Rebahi and by yuko over Germany’s Igor Wandtke.
“I was supposed to beat my first opponent, and I did,” said the Montrealer. “Then I took revenge on the German, who had won our past two fights. My day was going well, until I was up against the Korean.”
Korean Changrim An, world rank leader, served Margelidon an ippon in the third round. “I was beaten soundly. I wasn’t really on it the whole fight. He’s so strong! The bright side is that I wanted to measure up against him at least one time before the Rio Games, to have an idea of what to expect.”
Now that this first duel is past him, the Quebecer knows what he has to work on. “I know what to do so as not to repeat this lesson. I still have a lot of work to do if I want to beat him, but I will find the solutions before the Games. He is very precise and very explosive. He grabbed my sleeve and I couldn’t get him off anymore.”
Gagné Testing the Waters
Newly competing in the Under 73 kg, Patrick Gagné was eliminated after his first match of the day, against French Guillaume Chaine. It was a surprise to see the Baie-Comeau athlete in this new division, as he’s been working to qualify for the Under 66 kg in Rio. He recently had to withdraw from a competition after not making weight.
“I fought in the Under 73 kg, on the recommendation of the team’s nutritionist,” he explained. ”We have decided that I will only fight to qualify for the Under 66 kg in the PanAms in April, because physically, it’s really hard for me to cut weight.”
His only goal this weekend was not to lose his touch for competitions. “I hadn’t competed since November, so this has helped me get the feel of the competition. Basically, my fight started out well. But I was a bit rusty, so I took some penalties. I had to open up and got countered with a waza-ari. The most disappointing thing is that I had a chance to win the fight with one of my favourite ground techniques, but I couldn’t keep him pinned down.”
After the Rio Olympic Games, Gagné is done with fighting the scales, and will officially move on the Under 73 kg class. “We can say this has been a bit of a warm-up for next year. It’s clear to me now that I’m going to move up and it’s going to be fine.”
Tremblay Up Against a Top-Fiver
Stéfanie Tremblay (Under 63 kg) was also eliminated in her first bout, when she lost by ippon to Israeli Yarden Gerbi, fourth in the International Federation rank.
“She was really solid,” said Tremblay. “She was world champion in 2013, too. I started out strong, but after a minute and a half, I made a mistake and she took advantage of it.”
“She’s really good in this specific position, and also to counter a certain kind of attack,” continued the Saguenay athlete. “My strategy was to stay away from this attack, but she gave me the perfect grip to do it, and in the heat of the moment, I didn’t stick to the plan.”
Despite the underwhelming outcome, the 25-year-old has learned quite a bit from her match. “I’m happy I could get my hands on a top-fiver. I was confident before the fight. I felt good and I fought to win. That’s the attitude I want to have as often as I can in the next few months.”
She concedes that this series of European tournaments hasn’t been productive in terms of points for the Olympic team. “I’m in good shape,” she said. “These competitions haven’t yielded a lot of points, but I am learning from my mistakes. I also had some good training sessions in Europe. We’re leaving soon for the World Cup tournaments in South America (in early March). That’s where it’s important to deliver.”
During her South American tour, she wants to rake in points to climb up the world ranking. Canadian judokas have until the end of May to move up the rank and get their names on a ticket to Rio. “I’m not worried. I’ve always known I’d be fighting until the very end. The tournaments we just fought are the strongest in the circuit, other than the World Champs. In South America, it will be a bit easier.”
Antoine Valois-Fortier, third in the world, also had a very short day in Düsseldorf. His only fight lasted a mere 43 seconds, after which he was served an ippon by Colombian Pedro Castro.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada