Zupancic earns Canada its first Pan Am judo gold of TO2015
Despite a solid haul of four Pan Am judo medals in the first two nights, Canada had yet to put a body on the top step of the podium of the Mississauga Sports Centre.
That changed on Monday evening in Day 3 of competition, when Olympian Kelita Zupancic (81kg) delivered gold in the women’s division to wild approval from the home crowd.
Canada also registered a silver medal in women’s 63kg class from Stefanie Tremblay, bringing the country’s total to six judo medals with one more night of action ahead on Tuesday.
Zupancic was trailing Onix Cortes of Cuba in the early going with a shido penalty, however urged on by the crowd, the Canadian turned a corner in the match as it became increasingly aggressive. At 3:33 of the bout Zupancic’s hard work paid off as she scored an Ippon over Cortes and won the contest.
“It feels surreal,” Zupancic told the gathered media of what it felt to be the best in the region. She had misty eyes during the medal ceremony. “Words can’t describe it. I’m so proud to be Canadian. I’m proud to represent my family, friends, coaches, teammates, everyone.”
As of the latest rankings by the International Judo Federation, Zupancic is ranked fifth in the world in her weight class. She beat three top-40 rivals in world number 37 Vanessa Chala of Ecuador, Maria Portela of Brazil (no. 19) and Cortes – no. 25 and defending Pan Am champion – for gold. Her future plans are simple.
“Next year is the Olympic Games and everything is perfect.”
Tremblay, meanwhile, came up against a defensive Estefania Garcia in their gold medal tilt. A shido penalty to the Canadian was the only difference between the two women, handing Ecuador the gold.
“I feel very disappointed. I was here to get gold,” Tremblay said. “I had a really good day, up until the final. I beat this girl the last time (they faced), so this is a big disappointment.”
The fourth and final night of Pan Am Games judo will take place on Tuesday in Mississauga, where Catherine Roberge (78kg) will be the lone Canadian woman competing. Canada will have two male athletes in Martin Rygielski (+100kg) and Marc Deschenes (-100kg).