Montreal, April 13, 2012 (Sportcom) – The long hard road towards Olympic Games qualifications for judo will come to end with the PanAmerican Championships, to be held in Montreal in two weeks’ time. These Championships will determine who will represent Canada at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer. To date, eight athletes are en route to qualification, comprising one of the largest judo teams that Canada has sent to the Olympics in recent memory.
On May 1st, men ranked in the top-22, and women ranked in the top-14 in international classifications will automatically qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games; a single judoka is permitted to represent their country in each of the weight categories.
Among Canadian judokas, Sergio Pessoa Jr (Under 60 kg), Nicholas Tritton (Under 73 kg), Amy Cotton (Under 78 kg), Antoine Valois-Fortier (Under 81 kg) and Alexandre Émond (Under 90 kg) are all ensured an Olympic berth due to accumulated points. As Tritton is presently injured, he will be replaced by Justin Imagawa in Montreal.
Joliane Melançon (Under 57 kg), Sasha Mehmedovic (Under 66 kg) and Kelita Zupancic (Under 70 kg) may also blaze a trail to the Olympic Games with direct or continental qualifications.
All told, 13 men’s spots and 8 women’s spots will be up for grabs by non-qualified athletes in the Americas when the competition takes place from April 27 to 29 at McGill University.
Judo Canada and its financial partners have supported close to 20 judokas throughout the qualification process; those who earn an Olympic berth will realize a goal that has required close to two years of sustained effort and participation in competitions held across the globe.
“It’s a completley different qualification system; it should enable us to send more athletes to the Olympics, but it’s also more time consuming and demanding,” explained Nicolas Gill, Head Coach of Team Canada, who is himself completing a second Olympic coaching cycle. “The process is filled with highs and lows. Antoine Valois-Fortier is a great example of that – he wasn’t really in the picture at the beginning, unlike someone like Scott Edward, but Edward had to retire from competition due to serious knee injury.”
Ever-present in a sport such as judo, injuries can lay waste to the best laid plans because the selection process demands consistency in athletic performance. However despite the pressures and requirements, many athletes have been able to achieve their best.
“Sergio Pessoa Jr. was injured for a good part of the year, but he was able to perform very well when he was healthy. He was able to earn good results between injuries and earn points towards qualification,” commented Coach Gill. “Staying healthy and injury-free throughout the entire qualification process does takes some luck, though.”
Even if the last two years have been trying from many points of view, Nicolas Gill brings a healthy perspective to the upcoming qualifications. “It’s natural that judokas who qualify would have a feeling of accomplishment, and breathe a sigh of relief. But, to be ready for the Games, the really hard work starts now; the next few weeks will be key for our athletes.”
Gill, a two-time Olympic medallist himself, is pleased with what he sees in this cycle’s crop of Olympics-aspiring judokas, even as the final stages of preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games are fast coming to their conclusion.
“Over the past few years, the objective was to enlarge the athlete pool. With the arderous qualification process that we have, it would have be easy to loose sight of the long term. Many of our judokas at the London 2012 Olympic Games will continue on to the next Olympic Games, so the challenge has been to prepare for these Games, as well as the Games that follow them. We’re really working on two things: our current team and the next generation, because Team Canada for Rio 2016 is being shaped now.”
Canadians in action on the tatami at the Judo PanAmerican Championships:
Under 48kg, Isabel Latulippe
Under 52kg, Laurie Wiltshire
Under 57kg, Joliane Melancon
Under 63kg, Stéfanie Tremblay
Under 70kg, Kelita Zupancic
Under 78kg, Amy Cotton
Under 55kg, Mahdi Zegir
Under 60kg, Sergio Pessoa
Under 66kg, Sasha Mehmedovic
Under 73kg, Justin Imagawa
Under 81kg, Antoine Valois-Fortier
Under 90kg, Alexandre Émond
Under 100kg, Nedjo Sarenac
Sergio Pessoa Sr.
Written by Sportcom