Victorious Valois-Fortier on course for world title bid in Budapest
Canadian Antoine Valois-Fortier won his first IJF World Judo Tour gold medal since 2015 with a workman like performance in the U81kg category on Saturday. The Canadian London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist - who made his post-Rio 2016 return in May after a spell on the sidelines through injury – celebrated Canada day in the best possible fashion with a win over European champion Alan Khubetsov (RUS).
Four-time Grand Prix winner Khubetsov lost out after one minute of golden score as Valois-Fortier won by a waza-ari against one of his main rivals for the top prize in Budapest.
“This was Antoine’s third competition since the Rio Olympic Games and since his surgery. It was a great comeback and is a great confidence booster for him ahead of the World Championships in August. Antoine dominated the finals tactically against the Russian player and eventually scored on him in golden score,” stated Sasha Mehmedovic, coach of Canada’s national women's team.
In the first semi-final Khubetsov defeated Rio 2016 Olympian Lee Seungsu (KOR) after 72 seconds of golden score by a waza-ari. In the second semi-final Csoknyai Laszlo (HUN) lost by a waza-ari out to Valois-Fortier who hit his stride in Hohhot having slowly warmed back into action this year after a return from injury.
The first bronze medal contest was won by Csoknyai who ended a spirited challenge from u23 European Championships silver medallist Antonio Esposito (ITA). The Hungarian judoka defeated his Italian opponent by a waza-ari score that came from a holddown. Csoknyai can be expected to produce a strong campaign in Budapest and will be lifted by his rewarding display here in Hohhot.
The second bronze medal went to European Championships bronze medallist Aslan Lappinagov (RUS) who prevailed against Lee. Russia won half of the medals available in the -81kg category and their bronze was sealed by a waza-ari after four minutes of action as the contest went the distance. A hip throw from Lappinagov sent Lee out of the area and over for the score and he comfortably held on for a place on the podium.