Judo: A Family Affair for Anne-Laurence Chevalier

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Montréal, March 22, 2024 – In Anne-Laurence Chevalier’s home, there is no lack of judogis in the laundry room. For the ex-Parisian, who is now based in Toronto, a passion for judo runs in the family. In other words, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

Anne-Laurence Chevalier

Not only is she the child of two judokas who fell in love on the tatamis, but her mother, Monique Thiollet, played a part in the history of women’s judo. In 1974, she became the first woman to win the European Championships. “There weren’t a lot of women in judo back then, but that has changed over time. I could see how dedicated my mother was to judo, even though it was very male-dominated,” said Chevalier.

“She’s always telling me stories about how, when she had to take her ranking exams or other tests, there wasn’t even a changing room for her. She had to change in a corner somewhere, so for her to even get onto the mats, she had to be really good. I grew up around some of the pioneers of women’s judo,” she added.

Anne-Laurence and her brother were both introduced to judo at an early age. “I used to watch my parents compete from the sidelines. Looking at it from a child’s point of view, I used to think ‘wow, what a weird sport,’” she explained, giggling. Chevalier decided to try her own hand at judo at the age of twelve.

“It’s fun! When you’re on the mats, the time just flies by, and you burn a lot of energy.” – Anne-Laurence Chevalier

Chevalier quickly earned her black belt, and she competed in the French Championships at the age of 18. At the time, she was studying to become an engineer. A few years later, in 2004, she and her husband decided to leave their native France and settle in the Montréal borough of Verdun.

“I trained at the Verdun club, which is a small family club. It allowed me to stay in shape while I was raising my three small children. It’s not easy to stay on track between pregnancies, especially when you have to go out to train and someone has to be at home with the children. My husband and I alternated.”

Unsurprisingly, nowadays, when Chevalier is not training at the Hayabusakan Club in Toronto with her husband, she’s either refereeing a competition or watching one of her three children in action.

“My kids have been practicing judo ever since they were little. When we moved to Toronto, we were immediately accepted by our current club. The whole family would be on the tatamis together, so we chose a time slot where we could all train.”

Louis, the eldest of the three children, has followed in his mother’s footsteps by becoming involved in his sport, as well as by earning his black belt. Margot, the second child, has also continued to train every day, including with the High Performance Club of Ontario. She recently made her mark at the Pacific International Tournament and the International Championships in Edmonton. Alexandre, the youngest, is currently embarking on his national career.

“I’m really proud. Judo is more than just a sport. It’s a well-balanced way of life for me, and I’ve been able to pass it on to my children, who are making their own way, without me forcing them to. It’s a part of their healthy lifestyles, too.”

From competing to refereeing

Refereeing has also become one of Chevalier’s passions. She first took up the profession in 2017, and now holds the National A level. She spends most of her weekends at Canada’s highest-calibre tournaments, where her children compete.

“I’ve always been interested in refereeing, and in Ontario, they were recruiting, because they’re always in need of referees. At that time, they asked me if I wanted to try it in an official capacity, and that’s when I made the move from competing to refereeing.”

And that’s not all. In addition to travelling across the country to share her expertise, Chevalier also organizes provincial competitions and is chair of the Ontario Refereeing Committee.

“As chairperson, I’m responsible for recruiting and developing referees. I have to keep the entire Ontario community up to date about the rules,” explained Chevalier, who clearly loves her sport.

But why wear so many hats?

“When you’re part of a team that organizes this type of competition, it means you’ve all been bitten by the judo bug. It also motivates young people, who therefore don’t spend all their time sitting on the sofa staring at their phones. That’s what competitions are for: to show you what you’ve been training for, and to motivate you to go ever further in your sport.”


Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada

For more information:

Patrick Esparbès
Chief Operating Officer
Judo Canada
(514) 668-6279

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