judo | Antoine Valois-Fortier’s beautiful adventure

(Tokyo) When the bell rang, Antoine Valois-Fortier crouched for a few seconds on his tatami.




Simon Darwin

Simon Darwin
Journalism

Even though he had just lost, he wanted to absorb the moment. Twenty years career, 12 years at the highest level, with a shovel of medals, three at the World Championships and a great one at the London Olympics.

One of the best achievements in Canadian judo. He is almost equal to his friend, mentor, and cosmic twin, Nicholas Gill. He was waiting for him at the exit. I patted her a little on the back of her neck.

Aside from a few dozen athletes and staff, the 11,000 seats of Nippo Budokan, the kind of spiritual venue for judo in Japan, where the sport was incorporated into the Olympics in 1964, were empty.

Thus ended Antoine Valois-Fortier’s “great adventure” in the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday afternoon. Two fights: a hard-earned victory against a tenacious Greek in the first round; A loss for an athlete of Russian nationality in the round of 16.

No, that’s not the conclusion the Beauport native would want for his third Olympics. It spanned more than five years, punctuated by injuries, serious back surgery to treat a herniated disc, a pandemic.

Unlike in 2016, Valois-Fortier was quiet when he appeared in front of Quebec journalists, whom he apologized for not being recognized because of the mask. Sentimental, sure, but quiet.

“I’m not sure what’s next for me,” the 31-year-old judoka said of his brief moment of thought a few minutes ago. This might be my last game. It was just a small disappointment to finish this wonderful adventure. Although I haven’t made a decision yet, I still have more to do. ”

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And according to his habit, he did not escape from it. Alan Kubitsov, his opponent in the round of 16, was much smarter.

After being defeated twice by his Canadian counterpart, for a victory, the judoka of the Russian Olympic Committee prevented him from holding his collar with his right hand. Valoir-Fortier surprised by the destabilization of 24NS the second. Khobetsov performed a “big inner mowing” and scored a waza-ari, a one-point cushion that he protected well to the finish.

“It took me a minute to adjust. It’s a minute too long. He quickly took the lead. After that, I adjusted well, but it was too late.”

Valois-Fortier attempted an action that could have worked halfway through, but the referee did not award a point. Quebec received Khubitsov, the eighth candidate, a rank better than him.

“You have to give him: in terms of strategy, he arrived very prepared. I had a proven strategy and knew how to work. He adapted really well to that. It took me 30, 45 seconds to figure out his master game plan. It was already too late.”

Valois Fortier missed Budapest Worlds last month to treat a meniscus injury and did not regret his decision.

“My head was in the right place. I’m in perfect health, my physical form, my energy levels were very good. I did a good job. I was calm in the face of the action. Everything was there. Maybe on a strategic level today I wasn’t.” SharpAnd Sharp. At this level, it doesn’t matter much. ”

He saw nothing in common with 2016, as he broke down in tears in front of the media after losing his first round of enlistment.

“In 2016, I was pushing myself a lot. Today, in the warm-up room, I was more relaxed, I was happy, I took advantage of the moment. It didn’t go the way I wanted. Of course I’m disappointed. I’m more comfortable for the course versus Rio, where he started Set the tension and panic early.”

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Disappointment was the main feeling that moved her. “It’s been five years anyway harsh between the ears. A bit frustrating because the road ends like this. Operations, the epidemic, I went through all the vicissitudes. It ends up being a bit more underperforming. This is what makes the beauty of games. This is what makes games cruel. ”

“The Great Responsible”

Now was not the time to evaluate. Paris 2024? We will think about that later. “It’s too early to think about that. I’m going to eat some junk food. I’m going to have a beer and just relax. I’m a little tired at the moment, my head blank. I’m going to take some time off, to see if I miss it.”

Talk about the excellence of his teammates. From bronze medalist Jessica Klimkett, “the most hard-working athlete” he knows. From fifth place to Arthur Marglidon. From the parallel track of Kathryn Beutchmin-Benard that looked really promising on Tuesday.

He refused to take any credit for it, asserting that his colleagues were adamant that success was their entire success. “Honestly, these guys are the cream of the crop. I think they are there even though I’m not there.”

Nicholas Gill set the record straight. First about setting up his attorney, trapped for months in Canada without being able to fight back.

We knew it was an atypical year. Antoine did not have a complete preparation, it was obvious. All this together, it was a huge challenge. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped. ”

Then, on the influence of Valois-Fortier on Canadian judo. “He is indirectly responsible for the success we had this week,” Gill said. It’s an open secret: If he doesn’t win a medal in London, I’m not here to talk to you. There may be one or two judokas eligible for the Olympics [plutôt que six]. It is his legacy. I’m not sure everyone realizes that, but it’s the truth. ”

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INS Québec National Center, Development Programs, Biofinance Own the Podium: all credited to the successes of Valois Fortier for nearly a decade.

“Otherwise, we were off the map. This is how the Canadian sports system works. A federation like Judo Canada depends entirely on funding from the federal government. If the door closes behind you, you are fine if it closes behind you…”

As for the future, Jill only wishes he who “became more a friend than a coach” thinks happily.

“If he wants to be the last [combat], it will be. Otherwise, it is important that he ends up on his terms and is comfortable with his decisions. Whether he decides to stop or continue, we will continue to help and support him. ”

Barring any surprise, Valois-Fortier, who has a BA in Kinesiology and a graduate of Sports Management, will still be involved in judo.

Fortunately, his press conference ended when Biochmin Benard moved to the mixed zone after winning his quarter-finals. They jumped into each other’s arms.

“The day has started, and the warm-up is over,” Valois Fortier told him. Exactly the same words as Jill in 2012.

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