Little by little, Gabriel Juteau is getting back into the rhythm of competition on the tatamis of Europe. At the Prague Open, which began on Saturday in the Czech Republic, the Canadian earned his first international victory of 2022—another step on the path of his return to top form.
He began his day on a high note, winning his first match of the tournament in the under-73 kg category against Tom Moritz of Germany. The 24-year-old Québécois gave his opponent no room to manoeuvre during the bout and rapidly scored an ippon to advance to the next round.
“I controlled the match really well. I used my judo to keep my opponent moving and to set the pace. It was a great fight for me and I’m glad to have followed my game plan to the letter. That’s my style,” explained Juteau at the end of the day.
In the second round, however, things became more complicated for the Canadian, who was set to fight Yehonatan Elbaz of Israel, ranked 76th in the world by the International Judo Federation (IJF).
Once again, Juteau made a quick start, but he was unable to find an opening in which to make a successful attack. The tide turned in the third minute, when his opponent took advantage of moment of inattention by Juteau to win by ippon.
“He was left-handed and I let him get in too close and catch me off guard. At that point, it was too late for me to fight back. It was a small error, but small errors can make all the difference in judo,” pursued the athlete from Longueuil, who will return home with much more than a simple memory of his record of one win and one loss.
“Despite the loss, I really felt like I could win. Because of the pandemic, I felt like I had lost my judo to a certain extent, but I felt very relaxed and good today (Saturday). I have to get my timing and my tatami smarts back. I’ve really been improving lately. I’m lacking a bit in my ability to close, but my old habits are slowly coming back,” concluded Juteau.
No other Canadians won a match today. Julien Frascadore (-60 kg) and Isabelle Harris (-63 kg) both received first-round byes in their respective categories but were defeated by ippon in their first bouts. Hakim Chala (-66 kg) suffered the same fate as his teammates, losing to Bruno Barros of Portugal.
Several Canadians will be in action on Sunday, the final day of the European Open in Prague. Alicia Fiandor (-70 kg), Mina Coulombe (-78 kg) and Coralie Godbout (-78 kg) will hit the tatamis on the women’s side. On the men’s, Étienne Briand (-81 kg), Mohab El Nahas (-81 kg), Alexandre Arencibia (-90 kg), Louis Krieber-Gagnon (-90 kg) and Keagan Young (-90 kg) will do the same.