A Quebec judoka is experiencing his best career moments
With three medals in his last four international competitions, François Gauthier-Drapeau is experiencing a significant outbreak that allows him to envisage a podium at the world judo championship which will begin on Sunday in Doha.
Bored by a serious knee injury that caused him to miss the 2019 season and deprived of international tournaments during the pandemic, Gauthier-Drapeau never had the opportunity to fight for a place for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Back this year on the international scene, the Alma native judoka did not miss his opportunity. “My results are beyond my expectations,” he admitted. It's going well and I'm definitely not going to complain. I had quite a physical level to compete with the best, but I was lacking strategically and tactically due to my lack of tournament experience.”
Gauthier-Drapeau believed in his chances of winning. “I needed a few things to turn in my favor in many fights, he said. Antoine (Valois-Fortier) is one of the best tactically and I'm learning a lot from him. I put his advice into practice instinctively.”
Gauthier-Drapeau crosses swords with several former opponents of Valois-Fortier, who retired after the Tokyo Olympics and turned to coaching. “Antoine fought several fights against these same adversaries and it is a big advantage for me, he told. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and he can put together an effective game plan.”
Valois-Fortier agrees that his experience is an asset up his protege's sleeve. “It's a little funny to coach against former opponents, said the bronze medalist of the London Olympics in 2012, but it's a plus on the tactical level.”
Gauthier-Drapeau will only play his second career World Championships, but he will not show up on the tatami in the hope of gaining experience. “Because of my latest results, I can afford some expectations. I've beaten guys who have won medals at worlds in the past and I'm sure I have a chance against everyone.”
Valois-Fortier sums it up. “He is not in the favorites, but he can cause surprises if he has a good day. A medal is possible.”
Valois-Fortier not surprised
Valois-Fortier assures that he is not surprised by Gauthier's successes -Flag. “François is very strong between the two ears and physically. He needed more experience on the international stage. He's progressing at a good speed and he's super consistent. It's no surprise to me to see him succeed.”
Valois-Fortier attributes the late emergence of his protege to very specific factors. “A series of events slowed its development. He did not participate in international tournaments due to a serious knee injury. His rehabilitation complete, he was ready to come back, but then COVID-19 hit.”