Montreal, May 5 2017 – Eight years ago, a 19-year-old man proudly stepped onto the highest level of the podium at the Canadian Open Championships. Three years later, that same judoka surprised his entire country when he won a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games.
Antoine Valois-Fortier has vivid memories of the first time he competed at the Nationals. Participation in this major tournament is often the turning point in an athlete’s career.
“That was the moment I started my rise through the ranks of the sport. Competing in the Canadian Championships led to my being selected for the Quebec team. Later, I was able to qualify for international tournaments,” said the two-time World Championships medal winner.
He now serves as a role model for young, developing athletes, which is why he will be making an appearance at the Canadian Open Judo Championships presented by biosports.team, which will be held in Calgary from May 25 to 28.
“My goal is to be available to young people. It’s a pleasure for me to meet athletes and promote my sport. It’s been a long time since I competed in the Canadian Championships. I’m really looking forward to being back in that atmosphere and feeling the excitement of the young athletes as they get ready to compete,” he stated.
Valois-Fortier is not the only elite athlete who will be attending the tournament. Multiple Paralympic medallist Priscilla Gagné will also be making the trip to Alberta for the Canadian Open Judo Championships presented by biosports.team. The extraordinarily determined athlete, who has a visual impairment, will rely on her experience at the Rio Paralympics to inspire tomorrow’s stars.
“Whether or not we have a visual impairment, we all feel the same pressure. I’ll definitely use my experience to help younger athletes. I’m very much looking forward to being there,” declared Gagné.
While in Calgary, Gagné will also be spreading news that is sure to be greeted with enthusiasm by visually impaired judokas. A number of upcoming para-judo tournaments will take place alongside major international competitions.
“The international federation will allow us to compete in the same locations as sighted athletes. This news makes me really happy. It will bring us a lot of publicity. I’m very excited,’” she exclaimed.
The Secret to Winning an Olympic Medal: Attitude!
Antoine Valois-Fortier is no stranger to the pressure to win. He experiences it every time he steps onto the tatamis at a Grand Prix, a world championship, or any other international competition. This makes him well-suited to help young athletes overcome their anxiety.
“I’ll tell them to focus on the present, to relax, and to try to have fun. Often, we perform best when we’re not overly stressed,” he said.
The Québécois also wants to remind them that victories and medals are not all that count. A bout is over in just a few minutes, and the outcome can be influenced by a number of factors. Athletes that leave Calgary without having been named Canadian champion may still realize their dreams.
“All the provincial and national coaches will be there, and one of the things they notice every time is attitude, even more than results. They pay a lot of attention to it. Results are important, but often, attitude says even more about an athlete’s potential.”
Antoine Valois-Fortier and Priscilla Gagné will be available for media interviews while in Calgary. Valois-Fortier will be available to answer journalists’ questions during the late afternoon of May 27, as well as on May 28. Gagné will available from May 26 to 28.