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TOKYO — Canadian judoka Shady El-Nahas said it only took a second for his hopes of an Olympic medal to slip away.
The 23-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., had looked strong in many of his matches, but ultimately lost his bronze-medal bout in the men's 100-kilogram division on Thursday to Jorge Fonseca of Portugal.
"One mistake and it ruins your whole day. That's what happened,” said the Canadian judoka after his loss to Fonseca by a slim waza-ari.
“I've beaten him twice already. I knew what to do. I think the pressure affected me a bit in the last fight,” he added.
Japan's Aaron Wolf defeated Cho Gu-ham of South Korea to win the gold medal.
Fonseca, weeks away from winning his second world title in June, appeared to lack energy for much of the match and was assessed an early penalty for ducking under an El-Nahas attack.
The Portuguese veteran later showed his trademark quickness, however, landing a scoring throw at the 3:24 mark.
Fonseca was given a second penalty for an ill-timed attack, making for a tense final 26 seconds. But he held on for the win, countering a promising El-Nahas throw attempt in the final seconds.
El-Nahas defeated Israel's Peter Paltchik by ippon to advance to the medal round but ultimately finished his first Olympics in fifth place.
Nicolas Gill, the CEO and high performance director of Judo Canada, believes that the loss was due to the Fonseca's opportunism rather than a mistake by the Canadian. He also noted that El-Nahas knocked off a series of good opponents on his way to the bronze-medal match.
Nevertheless, El-Nahas remained bitterly disappointed.
"I don't think this fifth place will satisfy me," he said. "I do every tournament, whether they're at the provincial level or like here, with the goal of winning. I want to be a champion everywhere. That's my mentality."
Earlier, El-Nahas won his two first matches before being defeated by world No. 1 Varlam Liparteliani of Georgia in the quarterfinals.
El-Nahas first beat Ivan Remarenco of the United Arab Emirates by immobilization and then Azerbaijan's Zelym Kotsoiev by ippon before falling to Liparteliani.
The Georgian first scored a waza-ari using an uki-otoshi throw halfway through the match, then added a second waza-ari with only three seconds left for an ippon victory over El-Nahas.
Sasha Mehmedovic, the national coach for Judo Canada, praised the way El-Nahas was able to regain his concentration after the loss.
"He showed that in the repechage, that he was ready to come back and win that bronze. What can I say? That match was very close," she said.
"He had a game plan. He was working well, but you know, one slip, one small mistake at the last, you know 35 seconds… Obviously, (Fonseca) is experienced, he knows how to maintain the lead. Close, but no medal."
Canada has two bronze medals in judo at this Olympics, coming from Jessica Klimkait in the women's 57-kilogram and from Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard in the 63-kilogram.
El-Nahas remains convinced that he was the best in the tournament, but for "two errors of concentration."
"That's sport," he said. "I'll take a break and go back to work."
He doesn't plan to stop until he wins Olympic gold.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.
Frédéric Daigle, The Canadian Press