Ahead of the first weigh-in, during the accreditation being held at one of the official hotels, scores of judoka gathered at the National Training Centre to train, just a few kilometres away, to feel the mat under their feet one last time before competition day.
Canada’s Head Coach, Antoine Valois-Fortier explained, “Last week was the Quebec Open, a very well attended event perennially, and so we have many athletes from different PanAmerican countries who come for that. Every year, after that event, we organise a 4 day camp. Among others, a Brazilian team stayed to train this year and usually there are a lot of younger judoka, preparing the next generation of the elite too."
"We try to arrange the camp so people can come for the Quebec event and then stay to train before also attending the continental open and cups. It’s important timing, to attract people from other countries and this is especially important when we think about how spread out our population is. It’s hard to imagine just how big Canada is.
Janusz Pawlowski is a Polish coach who has been with us, coaching with the national team since 2014. This morning he is leading but every morning the technical session is led by someone else in our Canadian coaching team. We also involve our regional coaches to ensure there is always development and inclusion.”
How will Judo Canada benefit from these tournaments?
“First of all, we want to be recognised as a federation fully involved with judo, active in the promotion of judo. We always hope for it to generate interest and excitement and in turn new judoka. It’s a great opportunity for our athletes to compete at home but at the international level. It doesn’t happen often for them so they will enjoy the home court feeling with the cheering from their local supporters. The training is always good too. It’s all a great tool for promoting judo.”
Jessica Klimkait, world champion and Olympic medallist, was present for her early morning training and said, “Being from Canada, we are really far from the judo hubs of Asia and Europe, so uniting international players with this training opportunity shows how eager we are to collaborate and improve in the spirit of jita kyoei.”
Sasha Mehmedovic, Canadian junior and -23 national coach added, “Our juniors and seniors who are already at a good level are all based here at the national training centre. We collaborate with the provincial government of Quebec as this is the National sport institute and not just for judo. Water polo, diving, para swimming, boxing and other sports are based here. Some sports don’t train fully in this complex but do their strength and conditioning work here, speed skaters and hockey players for example are based at a different local building.
Since the Montreal Olympic Games it’s been really well maintained and extended as a facility. Lots has been built here. There’s a lot of other entertainment usually like concert venues and more. The place is really well used and has a great feeling for those who train here full time.”
Tomorrow the juniors will compete in the Montreal PanAmerican Junior Cup, while cadets compete on Friday. Seniors take to the mat on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile the national training centre will remain open and daily training will continue, so if you’re ever in the area, don’t hesitate to join in; Montreal will always have a space held open for you!