Antoine Bouchard takes gold for Canada in Santo DOmingo
Antoine Bouchard had a flawless day on Saturday at the Pan American Open in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Quebecer was never in any danger in his four bouts, and sailed to the top step of the podium in the Under 73 kg class.
In his first bout, Bouchard required a mere 27 seconds to claim victory over Dominican Maikor Yefri Louis Pierre. He followed that win up in the next round, with the defeat of Jose Geronimo, also of the Dominican Republic.
Bouchard faced his first real test only in the semifinals, against Colombian Andres Sandoval, where up until the very last minutes of the bout, the two judokas were neck and neck. The Canadian forced his opponent to commit a fateful third fault with 11 seconds left on the clock, and thus secured his ticket to the grand final.
Bouchard wasted no time in the final duel - Mexico's Eduardo Araujo experienced Bouchard’s aggressive moves from the start. The Canadian scored an ippon – and the gold - after only 53 seconds.
"It’s very satisfying for a coach to have one of their athletes win a gold medal. Antoine was very dominant from the very beginning of the day, beating his opponents tactically. No one came close to getting the better of him, and I think it's very good for his confidence, especially after his shoulder surgery," commented Coach Sasha Mehmedovic.
Another Canadian stood out in the same category as Bouchard; Justin Lemire won his first two bouts of the day before losing in the semi-finals to Araujo. Even after his loss in the semis, the 22-year-old didn’t give up, roaring back in the bronze medal match and winning against local favourite Antonio Tornal.
Quebec's Julien Frascadore (-66 kg) also made his way to the finals in his weight category, where he had to settle for the silver medal after receiving three penalties during the match-up on the tatami.
Both Mario Cordones (Panama) and Lenin Preciado (Ecuador) were penalized three times in their respective bouts with Frascadore (the latter’s first two), which enabled the Canadian to continue on his steady trek towards an eventual podium.
The Canuck then had back-to-back wins over Dominican Anderson Pol Guelle and Elmert Ramirez to advance to the gold medal bout, where he saw his golden dreams slip away in a loss to Cuba’s Orlando Polanco.
"Julien also had a good day, he fought very well from start to finish. In the final, he may have wanted to do too much by being more aggressive when the bout went into overtime. He’s beaten the Cuban before and I’m sure he’ll be able to beat him again in the future," commented Mehmedovic.
In the Under 63 kg category in women’s judo action, Isabelle Harris scored herself a podium spot with her bronze medal win. After taking a bye in the first round, the Montrealer defeated Creymarlin Valdez (Dominican Republic) to advance to the semi-finals.
Harris ended up losing the next bout to eventual silver medalist Anriquelis Barrios of Venezuela. However, just like her teammate Justin Lemire, Harris returned to winning ways in style in her bronze medal match, defeating Ecuador's Edith Ortiz after two waza-aris.
"I'm very happy for Isabelle, she was honestly excellent today. She didn't need much to reach the grand final, and she definitely earned her bronze medal because she fought very well," added the Canadian coach.