Justin Lemire Stands Out at International Belgian Open 29 January 2023
Bronze for Priscilla Gagné in Portugal 31 January 2023
Jumber Meladze and David Popovici, the road was full of twists and turns as they attempted to make their way to the podium in the under-81 kg weight class at the International Belgian Open on Sunday. The two Canadians showed a lot of grit, coming from behind to finish fifth and seventh, respectively, in the weight division.
After losing their first-round matches, Meladze and Popovici headed to the repechage, where they had to win seven straight fights if they hoped to capture a medal. Ontario’s Meladze nearly succeeded, winning six consecutive bouts to advance to one of the two bronze medal finals, where he faced Augustin Gil of Argentina. The fight continued into overtime, coming to an end only when the Canadian was issued a penalty. “It’s really too bad, because I don’t think he deserved the shido,” stated coach Sasha Mehmedovic. “However, it doesn’t take anything away from his performance. He wasn’t really at his best early in the day, but he pushed himself hard to come back from that deficit and finish fifth. He showed a lot of fortitude, and he should be proud.” As for Popovici, his winning streak came to an end after a controversial loss to Tom Libert of France in his fifth bout. Leading by a waza-ari and with 30 seconds left to go, the Québécois was defeated in the final moments of the match when he received a third shido for stepping off the mat. He therefore finished the tournament in seventh place. “Once again, I didn’t really agree with the referee’s call, but that’s just part of the sport,” continued Mehmedovic, praising the efforts of his two athletes throughout the gruelling competition. “Fighting more than six times in a day is difficult, and they really impressed me. After their shaky first bouts, they were able to shrug off their nervousness and rank among the best in the category. It takes a lot of confidence to do that, and they proved they’ve got what it takes!” Also in Brussels on Sunday, Frédéric De Cardaillac (-66 kg)and Nikola Petrovic (-100 kg) finished with records of two wins and two losses each. Their compatriots Yanis Hachemi (-66 kg) and Kevin Turcotte (-100 kg) were eliminated after losing their two first bouts. In the women’s competition, Evelyn Beaton (-52 kg), Laurence Biron (-70 kg) and Coralie Godbout (-78 kg) started the day with two wins each in the round robin to advance to the elimination rounds. However, things soon went south for the three Canadians, who were quickly eliminated. Alberta’s Beaton, who won a silver medal in Saturday’s junior competition, bowed out to Sofia Asvesta of Cyprus. Biron, who captured a bronze medal 24 hours earlier in the junior category, lost to Poland’s Eliza Wroblewska, who later finished third in the competition. Godbout lost to Poland’s Aleksandra Turek, who placed seventh in the final standings. In the under-48 kg division, Charlize Medilo and Kimiko Kamstra lost their first bouts of the day and did not advance past the qualifiers. The same was true for Adriana Portuondo-Isasi, who lost her three round-robin matches in the over-78 kg group. All the athletes who participated in the International Belgian Open will remain in the country for a training camp that will take place over the next few days. It will be a perfect opportunity to put the lessons learned over the weekend into practice. “We have a very young group of judokas, and we’re very proud of them. Some of them are disappointed, and that’s normal, but it’s also part of the learning process, and they’ll come back even stronger. To build your confidence, you have to learn from your mistakes,” concluded Mehmedovic.