Antoine Bouchard to Hang Up Judogi in Montréal
Antoine Bouchard will officially hang up his competition judogi for the final time at the Montréal PanAmerican Open, which will take place on November 18 and 19, 2023. The Québécois, who recently won a bronze medal (U73 kg) at the Santiago PanAmerican Games, will hit the tatamis in front of family and friends one last time at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau.
“I’ve been training since I was young, and my goal has always been to be the best. After my second shoulder surgery in January, I knew I’d never get back to the same level as before, to be able to make it to the [Paris] Olympics, which has been my objective. So I made the decision myself, instead of letting it drag out indefinitely,” said the future retiree, who has clearly thought things through.
Over his ten-year international career, the 29-year-old judoka competed in five Senior World Championships and two Junior World Championships, and is a three-time PanAmerican champion. However, his greatest achievement remains his fifth-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the U66 kg category.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the duration of my career. The biggest highlight was the Olympic Games, where I obtained my best result ever. Looking back, I’m really proud of what I accomplished. Going into the tournament in Rio, I was ranked 20th out of 22, but I managed to finish in the top five.”
On a personal level, Bouchard’s greatest rewards have been the relationships he built with his coaches over the years, be they from his local club, the Quebec team or the National Training Centre.
“They are all extremely dedicated people who wanted to win as badly as I did, if not more. That’s the beauty of sport, and of people like that. We’re lucky to have so many of them in judo!”
Bouchard is known for his slightly unorthodox style, which he made the most of in the end. “People weren’t used to fighting against [my] style. It sometimes caused problems for my coaches, who would scratch their heads trying to find something complementary. When I did judo in Jonquière, my coach Roger Tremblay would tell me my style was a big mess. At first, he tried to get me to change it, but as time went on, he started encouraging me to use it. I guess you could say it became my trademark.”
Bouchard has not only made his mark in high-level sport; he has also excelled academically. When he moved to Montréal to pursue his sport, his parents made him promise he would also pursue his studies. Many years later, he is still in school today, completing a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
“It’s always been important to me, and I’m lucky to have been surrounded by people who enabled me to pursue both my studies and judo. Both of those fields require perseverance, consistency and good organizational skills. I’ve been able to develop those qualities both in judo and in school.”
Alongside his studies, Bouchard will also take on a multidisciplinary work placement at Judo Canada over the next few months.
“It’s a logical next step for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have very committed coaches, and now I want to give back to the sport and enable others to benefit from my expertise. It’s going to be an exciting experience!” added Bouchard, who is also studying for an Advanced Coaching Diploma.
Nicolas Gill, Chief Executive Officer and High Performance Director at Judo Canada, is delighted with Bouchard’s decision to give back to his sport.
“Antoine has always demonstrated an interest in getting involved, particularly by helping out at his club in Jonquière. We want to help him get to know the other side of our sports organization,” said Gill, adding that many athletes, including himself, have remained committed to their national federation. “It adds a lot of value. If we can keep our former athletes involved, they can contribute a unique type of expertise. In addition, it’s much easier to integrate them, and they understand the community.”
Antoine Bouchard will be honoured at his local club on Saturday, November 25, during the Judokas Jonquière benefit dinner.