Justin Lemire Stands Out at International Belgian Open

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Two Medals for Canadian Juniors

Justin Lemire was the Canadian with the highest number of wins on day one of the International Belgian Open, recording four wins and two losses on Saturday. In the junior tournament, Evelyn Beaton and Laurence Biron earned podium finishes thanks to excellent performances in their respective weight divisions.

Lemire, of Rawdon, Quebec, began his competition day in the under-73 kg category with a victory over Charly Wable of France. In his next fight, he bowed out to Niels Thijssen of the Netherlands, but the loss did not dampen his resolve.
He then chalked up three wins in a row against Thom Hensens and Dennis Van der Sanden of the Netherlands, as well as Axel Mancini of France, in the repechage. A loss to Émile Notebaert of France put an end to his sweep, as well as to his entire day. Notebaert later finished seventh.
“Justin fought really well today! He lived up to our expectations. He could have won the two bouts he lost, but errors were costly today. He lost focus a few times, and his opponents took advantage of that,” explained coach Sasha Mehmedovic, following his protégé’s tough competition day.
“He should be very happy with his performance in the final. Normally, if you make it through six fights in a tournament, you earn a spot on the podium, but it was a tough go in his weight class, with two repechages to get through. He’ll rebound quickly, I know it!”
In the under-90 kg group, Alexandre Arencibia finished with two wins and two losses. In the same weight class, Guillaume Gaulin started off with a win before losing his next two fights, while Alec Garand lost his only two fights of the day.
John Jr. Messe A Bessong, the reigning world champion in the cadet category, competed in his first senior tournament today, finishing with one win and two losses. According to Mehmedovic, it was a valuable experience that will help further Messe A Bessong’s development.
“He’s still very young and I think he was a bit nervous about fighting full-grown men. However, he was under no pressure. He was there to do his best, and what we saw was very promising. He was a bit disappointed, but he’s very talented and we all know he’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” noted the coach.
In the junior tournament being held simultaneously, three Canadians were in action. Evelyn Beaton of Alberta earned the country’s top result with a silver medal in the under-52 kg category. She ousted Camille Sternon of Belgium before bowing out to Hikari Yokata of Japan in the final.
Laurence Biron of Quebec claimed the third spot on the podium in the under-70 kg group. Her only loss of the day was to silver medallist Nanako Hoshino of Japan.
The only other Canadian in the competition was Charlize Medilo (0-2), who finished seventh in the under-48 kg group.
The action will continue on Sunday at the International Belgian Open. Nine Canadian judokas will hit the tatamis.

Étienne Briand halted after one fight
Meanwhile, at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Almada, Étienne Briand had a short day in the under-81 kg category. In his first-round fight, the judoka from Sept-Îles, Quebec, was pitted against Askerbii Gerbeko of Bahrain, who won the Baku Grand Slam last November. Briand lost by ippon.
“There’s not much to say about it. I started with a pretty good attack, but because I tried to modify my technique to knock him down, I left my arm open to an arm lock, and he took advantage of that. It’s a technique I’ve used countless times in my life, and I can count the number of times it backfired on one hand. It’s really frustrating,” explained a disappointed Briand.
The 2022 Pan-American Championships bronze medallist will now remain in Portugal to train for next week’s Paris Grand Slam. Several other Canadian judokas will also compete in the tournament.


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