Montréal, February 9, 2014 – Ontarian Kelita Zupancic finished 3rd, Sunday, in one of the most important judo competitions of the season, the Paris Grand Slam, while Antoine Valois-Fortier came away with a 5th place finish.
“It’s a really good result,” rejoiced Zupancic, who won the silver medal at the same tournament last year. On Sunday, the current No.2 judoka in the under 70 kg division lost only one of her four bouts. “I trained hard and I was well prepared for today; I was relaxed and ready to give it my all. Despite making a few errors, I thought I fought really well,” she explained.
After receiving a bye through the first round, the Canadian took down the Spaniard Maria Bernabeu, 28th in the world. In the quarterfinals, she lost in the last seconds of the match by a waza-ari against the 24th ranked Japanese, Haruka Tachimoto.
“I wasn’t ready during that exchange and she got the better of me,” Zupancic added. “After she scored the waza-ari, there wasn’t enough time for me to get back in the match.”
Zupancic came back strong in the repechage, winning by an ippon versus the Moroccan Assmaa Niang (13th) followed by another ippon victory, this time over the 18th ranked Chinese Fei Chen.
“I fought well against the Chinese judoka. I was confident that once I was able to get my grip going I could beat her,” said the Ontarian, who used a similar strategy to take down Niang. “I did a good job with my grip against the Moroccan, so the moment I had her under control, I attacked. It also helped that she wasn’t in the best form, while I came into the tournament in great shape.”
The Dutchwoman Linda Bolder defeated the Frenchwoman Fanny Estelle Posvite in the finale, while Tachimoto claimed the other bronze medal.
Valois-Fortier stopped by the defending World Champion
Competing in the under 81 kg class, Antoine Valois-Fortier came out strong with three successive victories, but would end his day with back-to-back defeats, first in the semifinals, followed by another in the bronze medal bout.
Also a beneficiary of a first round bye, Valois-Fortier, 11th in the international standings, defeated by ippon the Peruvian Yuta Galarreta Villar, the Cuban Ivan Felipe Silva Morales and the 4th ranked Uzbek Yakhyo Imamov, in the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately, he would fall in his next bout by a waza-ari against the defending World Champion, Frenchman Loic Pietri, and was handed another defeat by the 23rd ranked Japanese Takanori Nagase, who won by a yuko in what was a close fight.
“Despite coming up short, I thought I put together a good performance,” mentioned the Quebecer, who continues his preparation for the upcoming Olympic selection process, which begins in June. “Looking at it from that point of view, I’m satisfied with the result, despite the disappointment of going back to my hotel room empty-handed. I won some tough matches today by ippon, and I’m happy with my ability to throw my opponents,” added Valois-Fortier, who’ll continue to work on different tactics and techniques in the coming weeks.
The Georgian Avtandili Tchrikishvili would eventually be crowned champion, taking down Pietri in the finale. The other bronze medal went to the South Korean Jae-Bum Kim.
Reyes beaten in the 2nd round
In the under 100 kg class, Kyle Reyes won his first bout but succumbed to defeat in his second. Reyes, 32nd in the standings, beat the Brit Ben Fletcher (44th), before falling to the Czech Lukas Krpalek, the bronze medalist in last year’s World Championships, and a runner-up on Sunday.
As for Monika Burgess (-70 kg) and Catherine Roberge (-78 kg), both lost in their first matches of the day.
Burgess (151st) fell to the eventual silver medalist in the under 70 kg category, the 26th ranked Fanny Estelle Posvite.
Roberge, meanwhile, ranked 7th in the international standings, was eliminated by the German Annika Heise, 25th in the world.
Many of the Canadian judokas in action at the Paris Grand Slam will be participating at the European Opens being presented in Rome, Italy, and Oberwart, Austria, at the end of next week.