Montréal, November 19, 2023 – The last time Ana Laura Portuondo Isasi participated in an international competition, it was at the 2017 Senior World Championships. Hampered by multiple concussions at the time, she decided to put her judo career on hold.
But recently, feeling inspired by her sister Adriana’s return to competition, the Québécoise could no longer resist the call of judo. She therefore followed suit and made a comeback of her own in recent weeks. One week ago, Ana Laura took part in the Quebec Open at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex.
“I’m very grateful to be able to practice judo once again. I only started again in October. I love it, and I’m very, very happy. When my sister started again, I saw the positive impact it had on her life, and I said to myself that I wanted that too. Since I took it up again, I feel so much better, both mentally and physically,” said Portuondo Isasi.
As it happened, the stars aligned so that the 27-year-old could take part in the Montréal Pan-American Open at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau on Sunday, and she stepped out onto the tatamis in an international competition for the first time in six years.
Portuondo Isasi did not waste the chance to shine. She was crowned over-78 kg champion following a gruelling seven-minute final against Coralie Godbout.
“What an emotional day! I definitely got my money’s worth during that final bout. Things didn’t go exactly as I would have liked. My fights don’t usually last so long. I gave it my all! It’s incredible to come back and win a competition so soon,” said the gold medallist. “Coralie put up an incredible fight in the final. I don’t remember my bouts ever having gone so far into overtime, and it really took me out of my comfort zone. But I stayed focused until the very end, and I’m proud of that.”
To secure her spot in the final, Portuondo Isasi defeated Saudi Arabia’s Tahani Alqahtani in eleven short seconds in the semi-final.
Portuondo Isasi derives great motivation from her wins, but she derives even more from the feeling she gets when she dons her judogi. She has her sights set on even bigger competitions in the near future.
“Regardless of whether or not I won a medal today [Sunday], I’ve slowly been regaining confidence in myself, and that’s what matters most. Despite whether I win or lose, I’m focused on the long term. I feel ready for what’s next. I want to travel and compete in Grand Prix tournaments abroad. I’m very excited about the future,” she concluded.
In the under-70 kg weight division, Laurence Biron also ended the day on the podium after winning her bronze medal match against fellow Canadian Kiera Burt.
Six additional medals for the men
On the men’s side, Keagan Young was another of Canada’s stars today. He concluded his day of competition with five wins, including his final bout against Maxim Trigub of Ireland, and landed at the top of the podium in the under-81 kg category.
“Having the chance to win a medal in Canada is special, especially in front of my parents. I’m just getting back from an injury that took a long time to heal. I still don’t feel 100% comfortable, but I’m happy to have won today,” said Young, a few moments after his victory.
“I wasn’t familiar with [Trigub] until I watched him today. I observed him in his early matches, and that was enough for me to be able to come up with a strategy and beat him in the final.”
For the 22-year-old judoka, however, his semi-final victory over Denmark’s Djoni Askham was the one that stood out. He followed his game plan to the letter and clinched the win after only 21 seconds.
“My semi-final fight was definitely my best of the day. Everything just went according to plan,” he explained.
Earlier, Young had defeated Adam Adaman of Great Britain, Hensley Wood-Waldy Petit-Frère of Haiti and Nicolas Yonezuka of the USA in back-to-back bouts.
He was not the only Canadian male to win a gold medal: Mohab ElNahas did the same in the under-90 kg weight division, defeating Alexander Knauf of the USA in the final, and John Jr Messé A Bessong (+100 kg) ousted Philip Horiuchi of the USA in the big final for his weight class.
Benjamin Kendrick won the silver medal in the under-100 kg category, while Alec Garand and Guillaume Gaulin won bronze medals in the under-90 kg group.
In total, the Canadian team captured nine medals on Sunday at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada
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