To reach Rio, Canada’s judo athletes will need to throw down some of their best performances in the coming weeks.
The competitors in the 14 judo events at Rio 2016 (seven men’s weight classes, seven women’s weight classes) will be decided based on the International Judo Federation’s World Ranking List as of May 30.
But with only two IJF events left before that crucial cutoff, judo athletes—or judokas—from around the world will be scrambling to pick up points and improve their ranking.
Fortunately, a number of Canadian judokas are already in a great position to make the Olympic squad, based on their strong showings during the two-year-long qualification process.
Antoine Valois-Fortier, a 26-year-old born in Quebec City, won a bronze in the 81-kg division at London 2012, and again at the 2015 World Judo Championships. He looks poised to challenge for the podium in Rio.
Kelita Zupancic, a 26-year-old from Whitby, Ont., is aiming for a second consecutive Games appearance in the 70-kg division, after a top-10 finish in London. She’s racked up plenty of accomplishments in her career, including a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Championships.
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Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard, a 21-year-old newcomer from Montreal, posted some impressive results in the 57-kg division last year, including her first Grand Prix and Grand Slam victories. Could a first Olympic spot be next?
Several other Canadians will also be fighting (literally) for Olympic spots, including Antoine Bouchard (men’s 66-kg), Arthur Margelidon (men’s 73-kg), Kyle Reyes (men’s 100-kg) and Ecaterina Guica (women’s 52-kg).
They’re all trying to help build on judo’s history in Canada, which dates back to 1924 and the opening of the country’s first dojo. Judo Canada was incorporated in 1956 and just eight years later, Doug Rogers won the country’s first Olympic medal in the sport—silver at Tokyo 1964.
That’s one of five Olympic medals in judo won by Canadians (Mark Berger, 1984; Nicolas Gill, 1992 and 2000; Valois-Fortier, 2012), and Judo Canada has set an overall objective of winning one medal at these Summer Games. If the country’s top judokas have their way, however, Canada might just exceed that goal in Rio.