One Single Second Alters Kelita Zupancic’s Olympic Fate

Canada Low on Results
29 December 2020
Emily Burt Top Five in Serbia
29 December 2020

Montreal, August 10, 2016 – Kelita Zupancic had her opponent, Austrian Bernadette Graf, pinned down to the ground. If she held her down for 15 seconds, she would score a waza-ari, tie the score, and take the match into overtime. After 14 seconds, Graf managed to get out of her hold. The scene played out in the first Under 70 kg repechage bout in the 2016 Rio Olympic competition. Zupancic ended the competition in seventh place.

“I was sure I was going to get it, but my sankaku jime (editor’s note: triangle choke) wasn’t closed up all the way,” explained the Ontario judoka. “To top it off, she is so lithe, and I had a hard time holding her down. I held her so tight between my legs that I couldn’t stand upright after I got off the mat!”

26-year-old Kelita Zupancic’s day at Arena Carioca 2 started out on an excellent note, with a shido victory over Georgian Esther Stam.

The quarter-finals then pitted her against Japan’s Haruka Tachimoto, who would go on to win the Olympic gold. Up against an opponent with a less physical strategy, Zupancic was in control and stood her ground the full four minutes of regulation time. After Tachimoto needed a medical break and Zupancic was inadvertently poked in the eye, the match ended in a tie. No more than 28 seconds into extended time, Tachimoto scored a waza-ari to win the bout.

“I had a hard time getting back into the fight after the eye poke,” said the Maple Leafer.

This defeat wasn’t however the end of the competition for Zupancic. In repechage, she locked horns with number two seed Bernadette Graf. A waza-ari tipped the scale against the last Pan Am gold medallist.

“I’m leaving with my head held high. It’s all part of the sport.”

In addition to Japanese Haruka Tachimoto, crowned 2016 Rio Olympic champion, the Under 70 kg medals went to Colombian Yuri Alvear (silver) and British Sally Conway and German Laura Vargas Koch (the two bronzes).


Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada
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