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Canada wraps up Antalya Grand Slam with four fabulous medals
Kyle Reyes didn’t have an easy go of it Sunday in the bronze medal final of the Antalya Grand Slam in Turkey, where he faced Simeon Catharina of the Netherlands. Catharina was a tenacious competitor and brought the bout into overtime, but in the end, the Canadian’s patience and passion scored him a third place podium spot in the Under 100kg category.
“I expected a tough fight and that’s exactly what I got!” chuckled Reyes, who lost his only other fight against Catharina in December 2022. The second-ever duel between the two judokas ended in the Canadian’s favour, in part because of a strategy session with Coach Antoine Valois-Fortier ahead of time. Their plan? Instead of going on the attack quickly in the confrontation, Reyes would apply cunning instead. “We knew he didn’t have a tonne of stamina, so we planned that I would keep a safe distance for the first two minutes. Then I started to put pressure on him and tried a lot of attacks to try and throw him off,” continued Reyes. The fierce tatami action went into overtime, with Reyes always following his game plan to the letter; Catharina finally succumbed to the pressure, receiving a third fatal shido in the seventh minute of the bout. “I was relieved when it was over, because it was even harder than I expected,” admitted Reyes. “In my head I wasn’t thinking about causing a penalty, but really more about finding a way to throw him off. I saw a lot of openings, but he’s got a really solid defense and it demonstrated to me that I’m going to have to adjust to this kind of opponent going forward.” Earlier in the day, Reyes wasted no time showing his prowess, picking up quick wins over Estonia’s Grigori Minaskin and Austria’s Laurin Boehler in his first two outings. However, Daniel Eich put the brakes on the Ontarian’s progress; the Swiss athlete won by waza-ari after four minutes of regulation time, and went on to win the silver medal (after losing to Austria’s Aaron Fara in the grand final). Reyes then went on to the repechage, and defeated Anton Savytskiy (Ukraine) by ippon, before finishing in style against Catharina. “I’m happy with my performance! I defeated rivals I’d never beaten before, and I did very well on the tatami. My preparation was good and the results clearly indicate that I was ready today,” concluded the world’s number two judoka in the category, who’s once again got his sights set on a podium at the World Championships in May. Shady ElNahas – also in the Under 100kg category – started his tournament with two wins. Then, like Reyes, Toronto native EINahas was defeated in the quarter-finals, losing by ippon to the eventual gold medallist of the day. In the repechage, ElNahas faced Kazakh Nurlykhan Sharkhan – the same man he defeated in the bronze final last Sunday in Tbilisi. However, things didn’t go quite as planned for the Canuck, who had to admit defeat in overtime because of a third penalty called against him. “I had a good advantage in the quarter-finals, but I made a mistake, and my opponent took advantage of it. Then, in the repechage, Sharkhan’s tactic was to dodge all my holds and wait until I was given three shidos. It’s disappointing but it gives me even more motivation for the world championships,” said Shady ElNahas, seventh in the final tournament standings. The only other Canadian on the tatami this Sunday was Louis Krieber-Gagnon who started his tournament off with a bang in the Under 90kg category with a win against Taipei’s Wei-Cheng Chang. Sadly, the Quebecer then saw his day come to an end in the next round, where he lost by ippon to eventual champion Noel Van ‘t End of the Netherlands. Team Canada’s delegation in Antalya will return home with luggage heavier by four medals, including three bronzes won by Reyes, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (-63 kg), and François Gauthier-Drapeau (-81 kg). Also contributing to the medal haul, Christa Deguchi (-57 kg) earned herself a silver Friday, the first day of the Grand Slam. Hungry for more judo action? Of course you are! Team Canada’s focus is now the fast-approaching World Championships in Doha, Qatar, from May 7 to 13. In order to prepare, your favourite Canadian judokas are scheduled for a training camp in Turkey this week, after which they’ll fly back home and keep up the pace of their rigorous training, with medals, personal bests, and bouts a-plenty in their sights!