Rafal Burza – Judo Canada
After the success of the Grand Prix in Montreal, Canada will be represented by 7 athletes at the Pan American Games held in Lima, in Peru, from July 26 to August 11. It will be a golden opportunity for athletes to live the experience of a major-Game tournament.
The Canadian team will include Marie Besson (-52 kg), Emily Burt (-70 kg), Mina Coulombe (-78 kg), Jacob Valois (-66 kg), Bradley Langlois (-73 kg), Mohab El Nahas (-90 kg), and Marc Deschênes (+100 kg).
“The Pan American Games aren’t part of the Olympic selection process. It’s a great opportunity to put forward our Next Gen athletes. It’s a very good tournament with high-calibre judo. They’ll have to be ready to win a medal, and it won’t be easy,” commented coach Jean-Pierre Cantin.
Among the headliners of the Canadian delegation, athletes can count on Quebecois Jacob Valois and Ontarian Mohab El Nahas as potential medallists. Both recently stood out at the Senior Pan American Championships in Lima and the Montreal Grand Prix, where they respectively ranked in third and fifth place.
The coach believes his protégé could continue with his momentum in Peru. “If he’s well prepared and if he delivers the performance he’s capable of, Jacob could win the gold medal. Things are going very well for him. With his result in Montreal, he got into the top 30 in the world. He’s ranked ahead of other Canadians and, technically, he’d be the last one selected for the Olympic Games with the continental quota. It can change at every tournament, but right now, he’s in a very good position.”
Wisdom is an Asset
For the Next Gen athletes, the major Games experience will allow them to be more familiar with the atmosphere and environment that can be a source of distraction during these events.
“You get easily get out of your zone in that environment. Judokas like Jacob, Mohab, Emily, Mina and Marie are ones we can imagine competing at the next Olympics and they can benefit from this experience, it’ll help with their confidence level,” said Jean-Pierre Cantin.
These Pan American Games will be a first experience for some, and a swan song for others, like veteran Marc Deschênes, who plans on taking advantage of his visit to Peru as much as possible.
“Pan American Games are very important for me. It might be my last major Games, so I want to make the most of it and perform!” he said.
Having competing in Toronto in 2015, the Laval native will easily find his marks. “My previous experience will help, because I’ll know what to expect. Toronto was a big and impressive tournament! I know I won’t be a favourite, and there’ll be tough opponents on my path, but I think I could come as a surprise,” he said with confidence.
The judo tournament will be held on August 8-11.