Gilles Bellerose’s Passion and Dedication Recognized at Judo Canada’s Annual Gala

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Montréal, May 28, 2024 – Over the past 60 years, Gilles Bellerose has held almost every position possible in the world of judo: athlete, coach, technical director, referee, organizer, and, of course, volunteer. It was therefore only natural for Judo Canada to honour Bellerose with the 2024 Hero Award, sponsored by Mark Hicks and Sherwood Ford.

Photo Judo Canada / Antoine Saito
Brian Kalsen and Gilles Bellerose

According to Bellerose, when he first started out as an athlete, he was continually overshadowed in Quebec by such high-calibre adversaries as Robert Arbour and Roger Tremblay. However, he still managed to make his mark, winning medals at both the Quebec Games and the provincial championships.

Once his career as an athlete came to an end, Bellerose decided to make it his mission to help other athletes achieve their personal goals. With this objective in mind, he founded the Club de Judo Saint-Paul l’Ermite, in the Lanaudière region, in 1974.

“If I couldn’t go to the Olympics myself, I wanted to give younger people the chance to do so. I thought of my students as my own kids! I’m also proud to say that our youngsters never had to spend a penny to compete in tournaments outside of Quebec, since we always found sponsors to cover all the costs,” explained Bellerose.

Wins and losses never held too much importance for the coach, who simply wished to grow through judo. And while he loves training athletes with lofty ambitions, he is equally enthusiastic about training beginners and anyone else who is interested in his sport.

“I want to help everyone. We have partnerships with different organizations to help kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. We take on a few each year, to introduce them to judo. We welcome anyone who really wants to be here, and we adapt to each athlete and their goals. We’ve always made room for everyone,” he added.

“Being a technical director means hiding behind the curtain to shed a tear each time one of your athletes receives a medal, a distinction, or a bursary. I never wanted to be up front with the athletes; I wanted to watch and feel proud from behind the scenes. That was my payoff!”

Bellerose also spent time as a referee. Following a few difficult years in the role, he eventually succeeded in moving up through the ranks to officiate at the national level. Naturally, the coach in him used that experience to benefit his club’s young athletes.

“I’ve always been very direct, and that didn’t help me much as a referee when I first started out. I spent a lot of time at the National A level, and later, Donald Ferland helped me qualify at the international level. As a referee, I was able to keep my students up to date about any new rules, and to be honest, that’s what appealed to me the most about refereeing,” he admitted.

Over the course of his career, Bellerose also made a name for himself as an event organizer. He and his team were asked to organize numerous competitions over the years, and he always ensured they were carried out to perfection.

“Because I travelled a lot for competitions, and because I was often in the changing rooms, I saw what people were doing elsewhere, both the good and the bad. So when I organized events here at home, I used what I had seen. I always wanted to deliver a quality event, and I always made sure I had the best team possible.”

“Gilles is an essential, outstanding event organizer. When you ask Gilles to organize an event, you know you can take your hands off the wheel, because he’ll do an excellent job. He always aims high, and things run like clockwork. Gilles has a very generous spirit, and he’s been involved at all levels, all his life. He thoroughly deserves the Judo Canada Hero Award,” said Patrick Esparbès, Chief Operating Officer of Judo Canada.

Bellerose accepted the award with humility and pride. He thanked all the other volunteers he has worked with, as well as his family, who have always supported him in his judo adventures.

“I missed a lot of important events like birthdays, baptisms, and weddings. I was often away refereeing or coaching in places like Saguenay, the West, or the United States. People would ask my wife where I was. She would just shrug, and they understood. My wife has never let me down, and she deserves as much recognition as I do,” said Bellerose, with emotion.

“I achieved several of my dreams thanks to my wife, my kids, and the dedicated volunteers who helped me. I would do anything for my volunteers, because without them, it would be impossible to organize anything.”


Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada

For more information:

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

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