Mon, September 23, 2013

Shocking Olympic judo bronze for Antoine Valois-Fortier

By ALAIN, BERGERON, QMI Agency


Canada's Antoine Valois-Fortier celebrates after defeating Travis Stevens of the U.S. during their men's 81 kg bronze medal match at the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 31, 2012. (DARREN STAPLES/Reuters)

LONDON - Nathalie Valois and Stephane Fortier registered their little Antoine in judo class back when he was four so he could channel his energy. His surprising bronze medal Tuesday at the London Games showed their idea paid off.

Sporting a bloodied judogi, Antoine Valois-Fortier, with a victory against the American Travis Stevens, joyously ended a full and intense workday. This also soothed the Canadian judo team, which had been in dire need of good news since the Games began.

“Frankly, I don’t really know what’s going on,” said the first Canadian judo medallist since the silver won in 2000 by Nicholas Gill, his coach. “I think I won’t realize (the impact of the medal) until the next few days.”

The 22-year-old athlete brushed aside some heavyweights of the sport to earn his medal. He eliminated the 2008 Olympic champion, Elnur Mammadli of Azerbaijan. He followed by dispatching England’s Euan Burton, the crowd favourite and double bronze medallist in the world championships. Then he beat Srdjan Mrvaljevic of Montenegro.

In the quarter-finals, his defeat of Russian Ivan Nifontov forced him to go to repechage, during which he beat Argentinian Emmanuel Lucenti and finally Stevens, of the U.S.

“I knew he was able to fight five or six times in the same day, against high-ranking opponents. He still had to do that on the right day,” Gill said as he stood next to the athlete.

Winning five out of six fights in the Olympic battlefield, Valois-Fortier immediately recalled his 13 months away from the tatami because of a double disk herniation. He couldn’t even tie his shoes during a training camp in Germany in 2009.

Three years later, he’s standing on the Olympic podium.

“I would never have thought it possible, to go from such a severe injury and realizing my wildest dream,” he said. “I sacrificed so much. I had to give everything I had, every day after my injury, I have to say it paid off in the end.”Canada's Antoine Valois-Fortier won a bronze medal in judo Tuesday in the men's 81-kilogram class.

It was Canada's third medal of the games and second of the day, coming about 15 minutes after divers Rosaline Fillion and Meaghan Benfeito won bronze in the women's 10-metre synchronized platform event.

Valois-Fortier, from Quebec City, won five matches on the day, losing to Russia's Ivan Nifontov in the quarter-final, but working his way back up to the bronze medal match with a win over Emmanuel Lucenti of Argentina in the repechage.

He then worked his way up the ladder and faced Travis Stevens of the United States in the bronze medal match, where he earned a 1-0 victory.

It was Canada's fifth medal all-time in Judo.

This is Valois-Fortier's first Olympic games and the 22-year-old had a very difficult draw but he still won Canada's first Olympic medal in judo since his coach Nicolas Gill won silver at the Sydney Games in 2000.

Valois-Fortier had to fight the world's No. 3-ranked judoka Elnur Mammadli of Azerbaijan, who was the Olympic gold medallist in 2008, in his first match and he pulled off a shocking upset. He then continued to knock off opponents, some of them much higher ranked.