Kelly Deguchi rises to the challenge and earns first international title

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After a tricky start, Kelly Deguchi slowly but surely found her rhythm and bettered her opponents, and in so doing, took home her first-ever international triumph in her senior career this Saturday, at the Sofia European Open (Bulgaria).

The Canadian judoka had a great scorecard in all four of her tatami outings, and put an exclamation point on her participation with a spectacular triumphing via ippon over Italy’s Kenya Perna in the grand final of the Under 52kg category.

“We knew the Italian judoka was a very strong girl, and that she’d be ready for Kelly’s style. However, we ourselves were well prepared, and Kelly did a great job. She handled the bout well and didn’t give her opponent any room to maneuver. She launched solid attacks and finished the job with her best throw of the competition for the win,” analyzed Coach Janusz Pawlowski after the tournament.

The coach humourously admitted that he’ll be leaving the Sofia competition with a few more grey hairs, due in part to the difficult start his protégée had, “We lived some pretty dramatic bouts,” he laughed when asked about Deguchi’s run of matches.

Ranked 32nd internationally by the International Judo Federation (IJF), the Alberta native started her tournament by coming from behind to defeat Romania’s Luciana Catana in overtime with an ippon. Deguichi then faced the same story once again in a match against Spain’s Paula Lanza Chacoris, who tasted defeated at the Canuck judokas’ hands after just over 2 minutes of fighting.

In the semi-final, Deguchi was easily on her way to her third straight win, until opponent Roza Gyertyas from Hungary took control of the match and forced things into overtime. Both athletes were patient, and over four minutes passed before Deguchi was able to land an attack to win by ippon and reach the ultimate duel.

“It was a bit of a roller coaster ride! Kelly had a rocky start to the competition and lost a good lead in the quarterfinals, but she still came through it well. She’ll have to improve her tactics and get into a faster rhythm, but she’s definitely not far off. She did earn herself the gold,” concluded Pawlowski.

In men’s judo action, Antoine Bouchard and Justin Lemire stepped onto the tatami in the Under 73kg draw, where neither were able to earn a ranking.

After receiving a bye in the first round, Bouchard defeated Belgium’s Zelemkhan Batchaev before taking on Romania’s Lucian Bors Dumitrescu. The latter surprised the Canadian judoka for the win in that bout, and Dumitrescu went on to win the bronze.

Lemire won his first-round duel against Egypt’s Ammar Abohashim, but lost his next bout to Romania’s Adrian Sulca, the latter being ranked seventh internationally overall.

Still hungry for judo excitement and thrills? Stayed tuned, as this Sunday Coralie Godbout (Under 78kg) and Alexandre Arencibia (Under 90kg) will step onto the tatami in their quests to reach the podium at the European Open in Sofia!

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