terça-feira, maio 20, 2008

Gill quick to enter next phase of career

Gill quick to enter next phase of career
Forced out of competition by injury, Olympic medalist turns to coaching
May 20, 2008
Nicolas Gill is used to carrying Canada's hopes at the Olympic Games.
Twice, at Barcelona in 1992 and at Sydney in 2000, he carried medals away from the Olympic judo mats.
At Athens in 2004, he carried Canada's flag.
In Beijing, Gill will carry a different burden of responsibility. No longer the signature athlete of Canadian judo, he will be the head coach for the five-member Canadian team.
The transition is complete for Gill, who tried to compete in Athens on two surgically reconstructed knees and was out after his first match. Even as he lay on his back on the mat, the next phase of Gill's career was under way. The next generation were kids who were drawn to the sport by the man who was the face of Canadian judo for four Olympics.
"We had quite a challenge four years ago," said Gill, who got his first taste of coaching in 1998 by assisting his Montreal sensei, Hiroshi Nakamura. "The team was quite old, and most of us were at the end of our careers. Four years ago, we didn't think we had too many up-and-coming judokas, but it turned out we did. We targeted these kids after Athens, got almost a whole new team, and Keith Morgan came back."
Morgan is the veteran of the Canadian Olympic judo team. The Calgary native will compete in the 100-kilogram weight class. The rest of the young team Gill leads consists of one woman and four men: Marylise Lévesque of Saint-Pacôme, Que., at 78 kilos; Frazer Will of Star City, Sask., at 60 kilos; Sasha Mehmedovic of Toronto at 66 kilos, and Nicholas Tritton of Perth, Ont., at 73 kilos.
Judo Canada is awaiting a decision from the International Judo Federation on whether Marie-Hélène Chisholm of Port-Cartier, Que., will receive a wild-card selection. Chisholm had the top result ever by a Canadian female judoka, losing the bronze-medal match to take fourth at the 2004 Olympics, but injuries and recovery from knee surgery prevented her from competing in important qualifying events for Beijing.
"She'd been our best player up until her injury," Gill said, still close enough to the game to be compassionate toward athletes and their dreams.
"Going as coach isn't quite the same level of fun," Gill added. "It's a different career, a different role and responsibility. My job is to make sure the kids get there, ready to perform. In the past, the only concern for me was myself, to have myself ready.
"This frame of mind is totally different. As coach, you always put yourself to the back and worry about others. It's an adjustment I had to learn quickly."
Notwithstanding the decision on Chisholm, Gill came out of last week's Pan American qualifying tournament in Miami with mixed feelings. Morgan won gold, but a spot in the Olympics was almost a sure thing. Lévesque gained a spot by defeating Mirla Nolberto of Guatemala in the bronze-medal match. But neither was seriously tested.
"For Keith it was a formality," Gill said. "For Marylise it was also relatively easy. There were no surprises."
However, Catherine Roberge of Beauport, Que., was manipulated out of a probable berth at 70 kilos when a Cuban, who already had an Olympic spot, showed up in the field, fought once to beat the Canadian, then forfeited the rest of her matches to make sure a Colombian advanced.
"Catherine should have finished at least second," Gill said.
"We were expecting to qualify more athletes. I was hoping we could qualify six spots. The big change since the last Olympics was the emergence of the Brazilians. They have a very strong team thanks to more than two million registered in the sport, and with only three spots [a class] available for the entire continent, it changed everything. Three Canadians wound up in fourth place."
The crew that will go with Gill have good credentials. Lévesque, 25, a two-time national champion, is a Pan American Games bronze medalist and World University Games bronze medalist.
Will, 26, a three-time Canadian champion, has done well in front of Chinese crowds, winning the 2007 China Open.
Mehmedovic, 23, is the top-ranked judoka in Canada, seventh in last year's world championships and winner of a bronze at the 2007 Swiss Open.
Tritton, 24, gave up wrestling to concentrate on judo. The four-time national champion won a Pan American bronze in Rio de Janeiro.
Morgan, 34, assumes the elder spokesman's job vacated by Gill. He's married to water polo icon Waneek Horn-Miller and has been to three previous Olympics, his best finish being fifth in Sydney. He's won four Pan American medals and took gold at both the U.S. Open and Rendezvous Canada tournaments in 2007.
The youth of the team is what impresses Gill. Most are young enough to be in their prime for the 2012 Games in London. Starting young is a trend in his dojo, Gill said.
"People have their own reasons for getting into judo, but I think for parents who get their kids into the sport, it's the discipline aspect that draws them.
"There are many sports to choose from, but not many where discipline and respect for your parents and coach and opponents and referees are the key points."
FONTE: Globe and Mail - Canada

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