segunda-feira, maio 19, 2008

Still leading judo team, but in a different way

Still leading judo team, but in a different way
Globe and Mail Update
May 19, 2008 at 9:37 AM EDT

Nicolas Gill is used to carrying Canada's hopes at the Olympic Games.
Twice, at Barcelona and at Sydney, he carried medals away from the Olympic judo mats.
At Athens, he carried Canada's flag.
In Beijing, Gill carries a burden of responsibility. No longer the signature athlete of Canadian judo, he is 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. The team was quite old, and most of us at the end of our careers,” said Gill, who got his first taste of coaching in 1998, by assisting his Montreal sensei Hiroshi Nakamura.
”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.”
The Canadian Olympic judo team Gill leads consists of one woman and four men: Marylise Lévesque of Saint-Pacome, Que., at 78 kilos, Frazer Will of Star City, Sask., at 60 kilos, Sasha Mehmedovic of Toronto at 66 kilos, Nicholas Tritton of Perth, Ont., at 73 kilos and the veteran Morgan of Calgary at 100 kilos.
Judo Canada is still awaiting a decision from the international federation whether Marie-Hélène Chisholm of Port-Cartier, Que., will receive a wildcard 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 Olympic qualifying events.
”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. 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 assuring a spot in the Olympics was almost a walk-on. Lévesque gained a spot defeating Mirla Nolberto of Guatemala in the women's 78 kilos bronze medal match.Neither was seriously tested.
''For Keith it was a formality,” said Canadian national team coach Nicolas Gill. "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 competitor, 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 athlete 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 [per 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-rated 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, at 34, assumes the elder spokesman's job vacated by Gill. He's married to water polo icon Waneek Horn-Miller and been to three previous Olympics, his best finish being fifth at Sydney. He's won four Pan American medals and took gold at both the U.S. Open and Rendez-vous 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 says.
”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 (photo include): Globe and Mail - Canada

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