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Montréal, May 10, 2023 – Fifth in the Under 81 kg category, François Gauthier-Drapeau earned a career-best result at the Judo World Championships on Wednesday in Doha, Qatar. While it may have also been a heartbreaking result for the Canadian who was hoping to leave with a medal, it signals a great deal of promise, according to National Team Coach Antoine Valois-Fortier.

“François is on the right track, he’s progressing fast,” noted Valois-Fortier at the end of the third day of the World Championships. “I think right now he feels like he missed out on a bronze medal instead of winning a fifth place. Looking back, I think he’ll be proud of his day, and he’s definitely going to be a judoka to watch in the future.”

Gauthier-Drapeau started his day strong by defeating his first three opponents: Alex Barto (Slovakia), Saeid Mollaei (Azerbaijan) and Eduardo Yudy Santos (Brazil). His quest for a gold medal ended in the quarter-finals when he was defeated by Israel’s Sagi Muki.

The Quebecer demonstrated strength of character in the repechage, and bounced back with a victory over Hungarian Attila Ungvari after over seven minutes of fighting. It was that bout that provided his ticket for one of the bronze medal duels.

“It was pretty intense! I’d already beaten the Hungarian in the past, but the more the fight went on, the more exhausted I felt. He got the upper hand after a while, but I was able to take control in the end and I’m really happy to have won,” said Gauthier-Drapeau.

After a good start in the next bout, Gauthier-Drapeau was surprised by his South Korean opponent Joonhwan Lee, who took advantage of a brief opening to throw the Canadian to the ground.

“François started very well, he was in a good place mentally, but his opponent adjusted so quickly. He (Joonhwan Lee) took the first opportunity to throw François and end the fight, but François can be proud of his performance,” added the Coach.

“I’m slowly realizing that my result is actually really good, and it will motivate me even more in terms of a medal at future World Championships. I think I can be proud of myself,” concluded Gauthier-Drapeau.

Also in action on the tatami Wednesday, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard was hoping to build on last year’s World Championships success – as judo fans may recall, she won silver in the Under 63 kg category.

After an excellent start to the day, things got complicated fast for the 28-year-old in the quarter-finals when she faced off with reigning Olympic Champion Clarisse Agbégnénou (France).

Having been subjected a waza-ari early in the match, Beauchemin-Pinard wanted to go all-in during the final moments of the bout, but it was the Frenchwoman – and eventual gold medalist – who was able to use this to their advantage.

“My game plan was perhaps not very well adapted to Clarisse; I had a good sequence on the ground where I had the upper hand, but I wasn’t able to score any points. I gave it my all at the end, but she was able to score and end the fight,” explained Beauchemin-Pinard.

In the repechage, she controlled most of the action on the tatami against Prisca Awiti Alcaraz (Mexico). However, a single tiny moment of inattention made all the difference, and the Mexican judoka scored a waza-ari on the Canadian, who was not able to answer the move.

“Judo is an unforgiving sport. I dominated from start to finish, I was in perfect control, but there was one sequence where I misplaced my hand and she took the opportunity to take me down. That was her only attack, so it’s pretty hard to swallow that result,” analyzed Beauchemin-Pinard.

Despite her seventh-place finish, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard will nonetheless take home a lot of positive things from her tournament in Qatar. “It’s not the result I was hoping for, of course. I’ll be thinking more about what I could have done better, although my first two bouts were very positive overall. Even if I didn’t win the repechage, I know I was dominant, and that’s motivating for my upcoming competitions.”

More amazing judo awaits at the Doha World Championships on Thursday, when Louis Krieber-Gagnon will be the sole Canadian athlete in action in the Under 90 kg class.

Written by Sportcom for Judo Canada

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Patrick Esparbès
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Judo Canada
(514) 668-6279