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Alexandre Arencibia and Coralie Godbout, things did not turn out as they had hoped at the Sofia European Open on Sunday. As neither of the two Canadian judokas cracked the top five in their respective categories, they will depart Bulgaria having learned some important lessons, according to national team coach Janusz Pawlowski.
After receiving a first-round bye in the under-90 kg weight division, Arencibia faced Simon Gautschi of Switzerland. Exercising patience and creativity, the Québécois succeeded in defeating his opponent just over two minutes into the match. “(Gautschi) is a difficult athlete to fight, and I knew he’d be a bit of a challenge for Alexandre, but Alexandre sized him up early in the bout and found a way to beat him by ippon. Overall, it was a good fight, and it ended with a nice throw,” said Pawlowski, following the tournament. In the third round, Arencibia was pitted against a familiar rival, Johann Lenz of Germany, with whom he held a record of 1-1. The Canadian therefore had a good idea of what to expect, and the early part of the bout went well for him. However, he was subsequently caught off guard twice, the second time being his undoing. “We knew (Lenz) had to be observed carefully, especially when he changed sides. Alexandre narrowly escaped the first time, but when it happened again a few seconds later, there was nothing he could do,” explained the coach. “It was unfortunate and frustrating for him, because he had come close to scoring a few seconds earlier, and he was being very active on the tatami. He knows he’ll have to better read the situation in the future.” Lenz eventually finished the day on the third step of the podium, alongside Francis Damier of France. Roland Goz of Hungary defeated Karel Foubert of Belgium in the grand final to clinch the gold medal in the weight class. “It was a very tough field for a European Open, and Alexandre did well under the circumstances,” said Pawlowski. “He’ll be fighting those guys again in the future, and he’ll definitely be able to even the score.” Coralie Godbout, who competes in the under-78 kg category, was unable to defeat either of her two opponents today. She lost to Julie Pierret of France before bowing out to Raffaela Igl of Germany in the repechage. “She fought well early in her bouts, but things became more difficult for her after the first minute,” explained the coach. “She forced her opponents to work hard, but she struggled defensively. She wasn’t able to counter their attacks,” he said. Pierret later clinched the gold medal with a victory over Anna Kazakova of Ukraine in the final match. Igl and Betty Vuk of Italy won the two bronze medals. Arencibia and Godbout will be back in Montréal on Monday, where they will apply the lessons they learned this weekend in their upcoming training sessions. Although defeat is a difficult pill to swallow for the two athletes, Pawlowski believes they will benefit in the long run. “It’s a necessary thing. You have to experience it to improve. It’s inevitable. Both judokas displayed great qualities, but they also have aspects that need improvement. We can see it in training, but it becomes even more apparent in competition, where everything counts more. They’ll come back even stronger, I know it!” concluded the coach.