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Canada shuffles coaches as Michel Almeida departs

12 Sep 2019 09:50

 Canada Judo    Rafal Burza - Judo Canada

Canadian Judo is doing very well and with the first ever Canadian World Champion Christa Deguchi’s and Antoine Valois-Fortier’s bronze medal at the last World Championships, the future looks bright. These results show that Judo Canada is on the path to success. Less than a year before the Tokyo Olympics, 13 athletes in 9 weight categories meet the Olympic standards.

316 days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Judo Canada introduces their team of coaches who will bring the Canadian team to new heights in 2020. Sasha Mehmedovic will take the lead alongside Nicolas Gill in the last months of the Olympic preparation.

Michel Almeida back to Europe

This change occurs after the departure of the men’s senior national team coach Michel Almeida. Native from Portugal, he decided to go back to Europe to take on new projects after nearly four years with the Canadian federation. The recent World Championships were his last mandate with the team.

Sasha Mehmedovic, who was already the women’s senior national team coach, will take on the new role for next season. Already part of the coaching staff of Judo Canada since 2013, Mehmedovic, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, is ready to rise to the challenge as the coach of the men’s and women’s teams.

“We have full confidence in his ability to manage and supervise both teams’ programs,” commented Nicolas Gill, CEO and high performance director of Judo Canada. “It’ll be our duty to orchestrate the trips and training camps in the next few months to make sure his workload isn’t overwhelming.”

For the man behind Judo Canada, his involvement alongside Mehmedovic is an extension of his high-performance duties. “I’ve always been there to support the national team program. I’ll be a little more present in the next months.”

Priority to the Olympic Preparation

To ensure the best possible transition, Judo Canada decided to bet on the Olympic preparation instead of initiating a hiring process to replace Almeida. By making the most of the internal strength of the team, the federation will make sure to provide Mehmedovic with all the support he needs in all the athlete development projects.

“We didn’t think it was a good idea to bring a new member in the team so close to the Games. Also, after Tokyo, we will perform a complete review of all our programs, including the coaching structure,” said Gill. “We decided we would be able to meet our needs with the current team, and that’s the safest option during the Olympic preparation of our athletes.”

Besides, all the athletes coached by Almeida have worked with the different Judo Canada coaches at some point. On top of Nicolas Gill, Jean-Pierre Cantin (Junior/U23 national coach) and Janusz Pawlowski (assistant national coach) will join forces to solidify the structure around Sasha Mehmedovic.

At the moment, the designated staff for the Tokyo Olympic Games is Sasha Mehmedovic, coach, Nicolas Gill, team leader and coach, and Tiffany Hunting, head therapist. The sparring partners will be selected at a later date.

“There are still some internal duels to figure out. Out of these 13 athletes, 3 or 4 are on the low end of the range. A small group of athletes is enjoying their rest after Worlds, while another one is getting ready to compete again to solidify their world ranking and guarantee their Olympic qualification. Our role is to support them and adjust their planning to make sure they have everything they need to perform,” added Nicolas Gill.

The Olympic selection process will end on May 24, 2020.

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Related Judo Photos

  • Sasha Mehmedovic (CAN) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation
  • Christa Deguchi (CAN), Sasha Mehmedovic (CAN) - World Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © IJF Gabriela Sabau, International Judo Federation
  • Shady El Nahas (CAN), Michel Almeida (POR) - Grand Prix Montreal (2019, CAN) - © Rafal Burza - Judo Canada

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