David Popovici grabs gold in hard won overtime bout 4 August 2023
“I had good rhythm and momentum, but the results just didn’t come” – Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard 6 August 2023
Five bouts, five wins! Team Canada Coach
Antoine Valois-Fortier was enthusiastic about Jessica Klimkait’s (-57 kg) picture perfect day. The Ontario native never had a care in the world during any of the five times she stepped onto the tatami at the Masters Tournament in Budapest (Hungary) Friday, where she proudly stepped up to the top of the podium.
Klimkait easily won her first two duels against Bulgaria’s Ivelina Ilieva and then Britain’s Lele Nairne; the wins got the Canadian into the quarter finals. Despite a tricky battle against France’s Priscilla Gneto, Klimkait won after more than seven minutes of judo action. In the semi-finals, Klimkait got the better of Germany’s Pauline Starke, and only took a mere 33 seconds to finalize her passage into the final against France’s Sarah Leonie Cysique. As was the case in the quarter-finals, the bout went into overtime, and when Klimkait saw an opening to throw the Olympic vice-champion to the floor for the win, she took it. “It was a remarkable day for Jessica, probably the closest thing to a perfect day. She was excellent in every way, dominating all of her opponents. She set the tone from her first fight and never took her foot off the gas until her ultimate victory,” commented Coach Antoine Valois-Fortier. “In the final, we knew that the French judoka had excellent physical skills, and Jessica wanted to use her speed and dynamism to be able to overcome her. She was aggressive from the very start and was able to score the winning point that way too,” added the Canadian coach. For her part, Christa Deguchi – also in the Under 57kg category – was defeated in her first bout of the day by Portugal’s Telma Monteiro, suffering a rib injury in the process. Kelly Deguchi (-52 kg) was also limited to a single bout on Friday, losing to Italy’s Odette Giuffrida. Saturday, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (-63 kg), Arthur Margelidon (-73 kg) and François Gauthier-Drapeau will be in action on the tatamis in Budapest. Four amazing silver medals at the Jeux de la Francophonie Canadian judokas also performed well on Friday at the Jeux de la Francophonie in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The four Canadians on the tatami there all finished on the second step of the podium in each of their respective categories. After receiving a bye in the first round, Laurence Biron (-70 kg) started the day off strong with a 38-second win over Rosine Abeminachi Bodjrenou (Benin). Biron continued her run into the next round, winning in a marathon duel against Cameroon’s Zita Ornella Biami. The gold medal match also went into overtime, when Biron was finally defeated by Madagascar’s Aina Laura Rasoanaivo Razafy after another duel that required extra time to determine a winner. “Laurence was so close to the gold medal! She had some very long matches today, but she never gave up. Her last opponent was very good, and managed to find a gap in Laurence’s armour to win,” commented Canadian coach Sasha Mehmedovic. Like Biron, Coralie Godbout (-78 kg) received a bye before reaching the quarter-finals on her own terms, where she defeated Romania’s Denisa Marin. She then overcame Burundi’s Ange Ciella Niragira to claim a place in the final. Godbout finally lost out to France’s Laury Ngelebeya Liz in the gold medal duel. In men’s judo action, Alexandre Arencibia (-90 kg) won his first two duels of the day against Chad’s Pierre Djonwe and Cameroon’s Vladimir Carlos Ngueya Naheu. In the final, Romanian Alexandru Sibisan got the better of Arencibia in a duel that went into extra time. “Alexandre had an excellent bout in the final where he followed his game plan to the letter, and came very close to winning. The battle was intense between he and the Romanian, who finally managed to take the lead. Alexandre can be proud of himself though, it was a great day for him,” remarked coach Mehmedovic. Finally, in the Over 100kg category, John Jr Messé A Bessong also made it all the way to the grand final, beating Mauritian judoka Joseph Hansley Begue, Morocco’s Mohammed Lahboub, and Hardel Samba of Congo in back-to-back bouts. However, Messé A Bessong fell to France’s Khamzat Sparbaev in the final match, depriving him of the top spot on the podium. “Laurence, Coralie, Alexandre, and John all got off to a good start and all made it through to the finals. We obviously wanted to win a few gold medals; in the end it was a bit of a strange day, but also still an excellent day for our athletes, who all finished with silver medals,” noted Mehmedovic. Canadian judokas will leave Kinshasa with a total of nine medals weighing down their luggage – the highest total of any country in the competition. Julien Frascadore and David Popovici took home two gold medals for Canada.