Jumber Meladze and David Popovici had to take the longest route to try to reach the podium in the -81 kg category on Sunday at the Belgian International Open. The two Canadians showed character to come back and finish fifth and seventh respectively in the category.
After both losing in the first round, Meladze and Popovici headed to the repechage, where they needed to win seven straight fights to finish with a medal around their necks.
Ontario’s Meladze came very close to achieving the feat, winning six straight matches to then earn an appointment against Argentina’s Augustin Gil in one of the two bronze finals. The hostilities went into overtime and it was finally a penalty awarded to the representative of the maple leaf that put an end to the fight.
“It’s a shame, because I don’t think he deserved the shido,” said coach Sasha Mehmedovic. On the other hand, it does not detract from its performance at all. He wasn’t necessarily at his best at the start of the day and he pushed his limits to come back from this far and finish fifth. He showed a lot of guts and he can be proud. »
For his part, David Popovici saw his winning streak come to an end at five after a controversial setback against Frenchman Tom Libert. Ahead of a waza-ari with about thirty seconds to go, the Quebecer was beaten in the last moments of the confrontation, receiving a third fatal shido for having left the tatami. He finished the tournament tied for seventh place.
“Again, I didn’t necessarily agree with the official’s decision, but it’s part of the sport”, continued Mehmedovic, praising in passing the work done by his two protégés during this grueling competition. .
“It’s hard to do more than six fights in a day and they impressed me a lot. They were able to shake off the nervousness after a difficult first outing to rank among the best in the category. It takes a lot of confidence to do that and they’ve shown they have a lot in the bank! »
Also in action in Brussels on Sunday, Frédéric De Cardaillac (-66 kg) and Nikola Petrovic (-100 kg) both finished with two wins and two losses. Their compatriots Yanis Hachemi (-66 kg) and Kevin Turcotte (-100 kg) could not find the way to victory in two outings.
On the women’s side, Evelyn Beaton (-52 kg), Laurence Biron (-70 kg) and Coralie Godbout (-78 kg) started the day well by signing two victories in the group round to advance to the knockout tournament. However, what followed was more difficult for the three Canadians who were unable to continue on their way.
The Albertan Beaton, silver medalist in the juniors on Saturday, this time had to admit defeat against the Cypriot Sofia Asvesta.
Decorated with bronze 24 hours earlier in the junior category, Biron for her part gave in to the Polish Eliza Wroblewska, eventual third in the competition. Godbout also lost against a representative of Poland, Aleksandra Turek, seventh in the final standings.
In the under 48 kg, Charlize Medilo and Kimiko Kamstra were defeated in their two clashes of the day and could not advance to the main draw, just like Adriana Portuondo-Isasi, defeated by her three opponents in the pool round of the over 78 kg.
All athletes who participated in the Belgian International Open will remain on site for a preparatory camp which will take place over the next few days. This will then be the perfect opportunity to put into practice the lessons learned over the weekend.
“We have a very young group of judokas and we are very proud of them. Some are disappointed and that’s normal, but it’s part of the learning process and they will come back stronger. We have to learn from our mistakes to continue to build trust,” concluded Sasha Mehmedovic.