Antoine Valois-Fortier joined his teammates for a first indoor training session at the newly reopened INS Quebec on Monday. The return to judo may happen elsewhere…
Antoine Valois-Fortier had not forgotten the date of his last visit to the Institut national du sport (INS) du Québec: the 13 March, he celebrated his 30 th birthday.
Three months later, the judoka was back in his “second home”, which reopened on Monday, after the closure caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, nothing was the same. As prescribed in an explanatory video, the fifth in the world responded to a questionnaire before going to INS Quebec, confirming that he had no suspicious symptoms.
Like its 10 teammates aspiring to the Tokyo Olympics, he had an appointment at 9 am sharp, and not before. Their destination: the slightly redesigned training room and limited to a maximum of 20 visitors.
Face cover in place, Valois-Fortier has washed his hands a lot: before entering the Olympic Park Sports Center, at the INS Quebec reception, a hundred meters away, in the cloakroom, where the re-allocation of lockers made it possible to respect the distance of two meters, and in the weight room, several stations of which were individually protected by plexiglass panels.
“As with a little everyone, we live as in a new world”, noted the bronze medalist of the Olympic Games of 2012 on his return home.
Despite the constraints, he was very happy to reconnect with his colleagues, even if each had to do his own business on his device, positioned two meters from each other in the gymnasium.
“It feels good to find the gang. The social side was missed by quite a lot of people. Training everyone on our side was getting difficult. Motivating in a group, pushing oneself is what is fun. “
With the help of Judo Canada, who had, among other things, provided him with a stationary bike, Valois-Fortier had built up a small personal gym during confinement. The whole obviously has nothing to do with the training room of 8000 square feet of the 'INS Quebec.
We had to be creative in the past few months. We realized how lucky we were to have a room like this.
Supervised by two preparers, the session lasted 120 Minutes, with the last half hour devoted to cleaning and disinfecting bars and devices.
The dojo on the top floor remained empty. No one knows when it will reopen. “From what I understand, we are in the first phase,” said the bronze medalist at the World Championships 2012. To see the precautions that we take, it is not tomorrow the day before that we will meet 60 people in the dojo and we will be able to do judo again. Still, this is a first step. A small step, but it’s positive. “
A cover outside?
Nicolas Gill attended Monday's session. With the resumption of international tournaments announced for September, the CEO of Judo Canada has no plans to sit idly by.
“What I said to the athletes is that by waiting, we're going to be late,” warned the coach who returned in the fall. It's like waiting to better hurry! When it’s going to unlock, it’s going to unlock at once. “
This is why Gill is evaluating training options outside the province.
“We tend to forget that per capita, Montreal is one of the worst places on the planet [touchés par la COVID-19]. There are a lot of places where things are better, where they haven't stopped. “
The day when there are no more travel restrictions, when the borders are open, we leave.
Nicolas Gill, General Manager of Judo Canada
Without citing specific destinations, he evokes Belarus, where the sport has continued.
“I don't necessarily want to go there, but the whole corner of the former Soviet republics, they were not reached, or very little. At the peak of the storm, someone in Uzbekistan was having fun broadcasting live workouts on Instagram … Knowing him, that probably meant: get ready, we are going to be ready! “
According to Gill, Uzbekistan can claim one or two medals at the Tokyo Olympics. Its best representative in the 81 kg, category de Valois-Fortier, finished seventh at the last Worlds.
In Japan, where the sanitary situation seems under control, the best judokas would return to the tatami mats together, cutting themselves off from the outside. “Judo will resume in Japan before Canada, but they close to better protect themselves,” said Gill.
In Alberta, the second phase of deconfinement, launched on Friday, authorizes contact activities such as judo, subject to certain conditions. This is another potential destination.
“Everything is considered,” said Gill. Nothing is defined, but my job is to monitor what's going on across the planet. Not only what is said publicly, but what is also done behind closed doors. There were places where it was officially arrested, but it was not the case in reality. You have to follow and analyze what is possible. And know who would be ready to welcome us too. “
Judokas who have missed the least training on the tatami mats will be “clearly advantaged” when competitions resume in the fall, he anticipates. The economic situation of the different federations will also have an impact.
“For our part, the official memo said that our funding was likely to be affected from 1 er April 2021, “said Gill.
In this context, the double Olympic medalist expects that the world judo hierarchy will be largely “shaken up” next year. He will do everything in his power to keep Canada in the forefront of this upheaval.
He found his shoes…
By reopening his locker for the first time in three months, Valois-Fortier found a prized object: his best pair of running shoes. He often regretted them while he ran like never during confinement. “It was my discovery, my new passion,” said the Quebec native. I also admired people who race. I watched the times of the best athletes. just do a little to realize how impressive it is. »The world record for 11 min 37 s on 5000 from Ethiopian Kenesisa Bekele particularly struck him: “I would have a hard time doing this in a car!” He still achieved his personal goal, which was to go under the 20 minutes over the same distance.