Montreal, January 6, 2021 – To kick off 2021, Canada’s national judo team will take part in its first competition of the new year at the Doha Masters Tournament in Qatar from January 11 to 13.
Eight judokas will head to the Middle Eastern country on Thursday to participate in the event, which was scheduled to take place in May 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.
The 36 top-ranked competitors from each weight category have been invited to this important Olympic qualifier tournament, where no less than 70 countries will be in attendance.
“This tournament is among those that allocate the highest number of points, so it will impact the qualifications and rankings of the athletes, which will in turn affect how they are seeded at the Olympics,” stated Judo Canada CEO Nicolas Gill, who will accompany the team to Qatar as coach. “For each tournament, we only find out if it will take place at the last minute, so we’re happy that everything is in order and it can proceed as planned.”
In Doha, Jessica Klimkait, who won the Budapest Grand Slam in October, will make her first appearance since she moved into the world number one spot in the under-57 kg category and relegated her compatriot Christa Deguchi to second place. In her last two masters tournaments (Qingdao 2019 and Guangzhou 2018), Klimkait, who hails from Ontario, was decorated in bronze.
Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (-63 kg) and Ecaterina Guica (-52 kg), both of whom were crowned Pan-American champions in December, will also hit the tatamis in Doha.
On the men’s side, Antoine Bouchard (-73 kg) and Shady El Nahas (-100 kg), also gold medallists at the most recent Pan-American Championships, will compete in their respective categories.
Arthur Margelidon, who left Hungary with a bronze medal last October and is ranked third in the world in the under-73 kg weight class, will attempt to snag his second career masters medal. His first was a silver medal in Guangzhou in 2018.
Two Canadians will compete in the under-81 kg category. For Étienne Briand, this will be the first international competition in almost a year. For Antoine Valois-Fortier, it will be a chance to maintain his momentum after he earned a silver medal at the Budapest Grand Slam.
“We have five top-seeded judokas who are very well-positioned right now, so the level will be high. The tournament will be a solid challenge for our athletes and a great opportunity to compare ourselves to the world’s elite. It will also allow us to see who we may be up against at the Olympics while we still have enough time to make any necessary adjustments to our training plan,” noted Gill.
An unusual training regimen
Once again, the measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 added an element of complexity to the training regimen of the Canadians, who had to modify their approach. Although they were able to train in Montreal these past few weeks, the athletes were grouped into bubbles of four, which limited their number of sparring partners. Despite these challenges, Gill is confident that the Canadians travelling to Qatar’s capital on Thursday are ready to take on the world’s best.
“It seems a bit strange to be holding such an important tournament so early in the new year, but we still managed to ensure everyone is well-prepared and stay focused on our goals,” added Gill. “Obviously, the holiday season was unusual for everybody, but we’ve been able to keep up the intensity and we feel that everyone is in good shape.”
The tenth edition of the Doha Masters Tournament will begin on January 11.