Emanuele Di Feliciantonion/IJF - AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko - Curling Canada/Steve Seixeiro
Emanuele Di Feliciantonion/IJF - AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko - Curling Canada/Steve Seixeiro

Weekend Roundup: Deguchi battles to Grand Slam gold; Team Gushue off to solid start at curling worlds

Team Canada athletes shone on the international stage once again this weekend, leaving everything they had on the mats, on the ice, and in the water.

Judokas Christa Deguchi, François Gauthier-Drapeau, and Shady El Nahas all climbed the podium at the IJF Grand Slam in Turkey. Over in Switzerland, Team Gushue got off to a remarkable start at the World Men’s Curling Championship, while closer to home, the Canadian women’s hockey team warmed themselves up for the IIHF Women’s World Championship. South of the border, Josh Liendo ended the collegiate swimming season on a high at the NCAA Championships.

Here’s a quick recap of this weekend’s top stories:

Judo: Canadians secure three medals in Turkey

Canada’s judokas were again among the best in the world at the IJF Grand Slam in Antalya, Turkey. The weekend was headlined by a gold medal from Christa Deguchi, who captured the women’s 57kg gold medal on Friday.

Team Canada judoka Christa Deguchi battles an opponent.
Canada’s Christa Deguchi captured a gold medal on Friday to open the weekend at the IJF Grand Slam in Antalya, Turkey. Kulumbegashvili Tamara/IJF

Deguchi, 28, is the world number one in her weight class. She picked up her second Grand Slam victory of 2024, following her gold medal in Baku, Azerbaijan in mid-February. She has not missed the podium in a Grand Slam event in which she has competed since December 2022.

READ: Christa Deguchi strikes gold in Turkey to open Antalya Grand Slam

On the men’s side, 26-year-old François Gauthier-Drapeau battled to a silver medal in the men’s 81kg event. It is his best ever finish in a Grand Slam event. His first six Grand Slam medals were all bronze. He is currently seventh in the world rankings for the weight class.

Shady El Nahas also came away with a silver medal in the men’s 100kg event. After four victories in a row, the 26-year-old judoka — who is ranked sixth in the world in the weight class — was unable to compete in the final due to an injury.

Looking ahead, the big competition on the horizon is the IJF World Championships, which will take place May 19-24 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. One month later, on June 23, the IJF World Ranking Lists will be used to allocate all Olympic spots by name to qualified judokas for Paris 2024. The women’s 57kg event is one to keep an eye on, as Deguchi and Jessica Klimkait sit 1-2 in the world rankings and the world championship results will be key to determining which of them will get to compete in Paris.

Curling: Canada wins three straight at start of men’s worlds

The World Men’s Curling Championship got underway on Saturday in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Led by skip Brad Gushue, the Canadian team includes vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker and alternate Kyle Doering.

Canada secured two wins on the opening day of round robin play, defeating the Czech Republic 9-8 in an extra end before a 8-5 win over Germany.

“The first day is a little unnerving because you’re not sure what you’re going to get when you put the broom down,” Gushue said. “Today was a good learning opportunity and hopefully the ice stays similar to what it is.”

On Sunday, they improved to 3-0 with an 8-4 win over the defending world champions, Scotland. A rematch of the 2023 final, this victory allows Canada to be ranked ahead of Scotland in any head-to-head tiebreakers. Canada jumped out to a 4-1 lead through five ends before Scotland made a push. The Scottish rink made it a 6-4 game in the eighth end, before Canada replied with two in the ninth end and Scotland conceded the game.

“I know it’s early in the week, but those are the things you think about when you play some of the top teams,” Gushue said. “They’re going to be around at the end of the week, and hopefully, we are as well.”

On Monday, Team Canada recorded its first loss of the tournament against the top-ranked Italian team. Skip Joel Retornaz led his team to a 7-6 extra end win.

Team Gushue bounced back Tuesday morning with a 7-4 win over New Zealand. That marked a career milestone for Gushue, Nichols, and Walker who all got the 50th win of their careers at the World Men’s Curling Championship. The trio are competing at their fifth worlds together.

Canada will play Team USA on Tuesday afternoon. The preliminary round continues through Friday. The top two teams will get direct semifinal berths while the next four teams play qualification playoff games.

Medal games are set for Sunday, April 7. Canada is looking for its first gold medal at this event since Gushue’s 2017 title in Edmonton.

Hockey: Canada rolls over Finland in world championship tune-up

Team Canada defeated Finland 8-2 in their lone exhibition tune-up ahead of the IIHF Women’s World Championship that starts this week. On Saturday, Canada scored three times in the second period before adding five more goals in the third.

They will meet Finland again in their opening game of the worlds on Thursday, April 4 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

READ MORE: Team Canada seeking gold at 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship

Team Canada will once again play in Group A, joined by the United States, Czechia, Finland and Switzerland. Group B will feature China, Denmark, Germany, Japan and Sweden. All games will be played at Utica’s Adirondack Bank Centre and will be broadcast by TSN.

Canada and the United States have met in every gold medal game in women’s worlds history except for 2019 when host Finland defeated Canada in the semifinals.

Swimming: Liendo adds three NCAA titles to resume

Josh Liendo added to his trophy case this weekend, taking home three individual titles at the NCAA Swimming Championships. The Canadian topped the podium in the 50 yard free (18.07), 100 yard butterfly (43.07), and 100 yard free (40.20) while competing for the University of Florida.

Liendo wasn’t the only Canadian to top the podium at NCAAs. In his first year competing for Arizona State, Ilya Kharun secured the 200 yard butterfly win with a time of 1:38.26.

Fencing: Olympic quota spots secured

With the official close of the FIE World Ranking Lists on Monday came some Olympic quota spots for Canada in fencing for Paris 2024.

Canada has qualified full teams (each composed of three athletes) for both women’s and men’s foil, as well as a full team in men’s sabre. In women’s sabre, Pamela Brind’Amour has earned an individual spot by name.

There remains one more qualification opportunity for Canadian epee fencers. This weekend, San Jose, Costa Rica will host the FIE Zonal Qualifying Event for the Pan American region. There is one men’s spot and one women’s spot available per weapon. Angel Xiao and Nicholas Zhang will be the Canadians fighting for those epee spots.

Racquetball: Four medals at Pan Am Championships

Samuel Murray was a star for Canada at the 2024 Pan American Racquetball Championships in Guatemala. He won silver in men’s singles as well as silver in men’s doubles with partner Coby Iwaasa. The latter result followed up their runner-up performance in men’s doubles at the Santiago 2023 Pan Am Games.

Murray and Iwaasa then joined forces with Kurtis Cullen to take bronze in the men’s team competition. Iwaasa also brought home silver in mixed doubles with partner Juliette Parent.