Today’s date – November 18 – has long been noted in Antoine Bouchard’s calendar – the date of the Montréal Panamerican Open, and his last-ever international judo competition.
At Centre Pierre-Charbonneau Saturday, the 29-year-old took advantage of his last moments on the tatami to win the gold medal in the Under 73 kg category.
“I’m ending things on such a high note. It’s always special to compete at home, especially in front of family and friends. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful judo memories I’ll ever have,” said Bouchard, minutes after his final victory. “It’s rare in a judoka’s career to receive a standing ovation like I did today (Saturday). I consider myself extremely lucky, it’s an incredible moment.”
Bouchard’s last major athletic goal may occurred at the Pan-American Games in Santiago, where he won a bronze medal; at the Montréal Panamerican Open, he simply wanted to enjoy himself.
“Today, I just wanted to have fun. It’s rare that I get the chance to compete without putting pressure on myself so I wanted to make the most of it. Every little moment became special because I knew it was the last time,” he added.
Bouchard took the gold after winning a bout against Justin Lemire via ippon, with hearty applause from the crowd. Lemire himself raised Bouchard’s arm in victory after the match came to an end.
The judoka from Jonquière had previously beaten Stefano Varga, Britain’s Benjamin Levy, and Yanis Hachemi to see his way through to the final.
“I’ve been training with Justin for a few years now. We know each other very well and see each other almost every day. It’s special to be able to finish against him, even if it’s a bit bittersweet to have to face another Canadian in the final,” concluded Bouchard.
All the men’s categories contested on Saturday were won by Canadian judokas. Victor Dessureault first won in the Under 60 kg class, against fellow Canuck Matteo Fantozzi. Julien Frascadore (-66 kg) was also victorious in his bout against American judoka Isaiah Ramirez.
Bronze medals went to Vincent Nepton (-60 kg), Frédéric De Cardaillac (-66 kg) and Olivier Gagnon (-73).
In women’s judo action, Isabelle Harris also ended the day with gold medal around her neck, beating Nadia Matchiko Guimendego of the Central African Republic in the Under 63 kg final.
Harris remarked that the crowd’s energy was a huge motivation for her to give it her all until the end, since being on the tatami at home is something special.
“I’m really happy! I’ve had a lot of love from the crowd all day. It’s really special and enormously pleasing to be able to win a gold medal in Montréal, Canada. I could recognize some of my teammates in the stands cheering me on, like Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard. She’s a real role model for me, and I dream of being a bit like her one day,” said Harris, with a smile on her face.
The British Columbia-born judoka confessed to having had a bit of a scare in her first bout of the day against Britain’s Emily Niven, who managed to score an early waza-ari. However, Harris managed to put this slip-up behind her to go on to win the gold.
“Against Niven, I made a mistake early on in the bout. Fortunately, it didn’t affect me too much and I was able to recover quickly. I took the time to work out my game plans for my next duels and everything went well,” said Harris.
In the same category, Kiera Westlake won a bronze medal, defeating Emily Niven.
Heidi Quach (-48 kg) and Evelyn Beaton (-52 kg) also won gold medals in their respective categories. Amélie Grenier (-52 kg) finished the day with silver, while Marie-Lune Turmel (-48 kg) and Mahée Savoie (-57 kg) earned bronze medals.
On the hunt for more judo action? Sunday stayed tuned for the conclusion of senior competitions at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau.
For all the details you need about the Montréal Panamerican Open, click here.
Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada
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