Gagne’s fight through the pain ends with Parapan...
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Aug 12, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Gagne’s fight through the pain ends with Parapan silver

Visually impaired judoka has had plenty of breaks, but the best one might have been training with a former Olympian

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“What’s the very worst outcome? How badly hurt could I actually, really get?”

Priscilla Gagne, a visually impaired judoka, constantly asks herself this when evaluating her threshold for danger and actual, real pain.

Gagne, 29, absorbs the pain of broken bones. She once broke her arm rollerblading. She broke her nose, the first time, running into a bleacher during wrestling practice in high school.

“After that break, it just breaks all the time,” Gagne said Wednesday. “It doesn’t really hurt.”

And the taped-up toe on the opening day of Parapan Am judo.

“It doesn’t hurt.”

What about the time she broke both her feet?

“It was just a random fluke,” Gagne said of the moment, in 2011, when her competitor yanked her lapel and her foot “folded in half” beneath her. The other foot soon followed.

“It was kind of gross,” she admitted, pointing out where bone busted through skin. “This one broke here and this one came out here … then it went back in but I couldn’t bend it.”

Gagne was off her feet for eight months. Combined with school and work demands, it meant she wasn’t seriously training again until 2013.

Almost two years to the day she started training with Nathalie Gosselin, the Ottawa-based Gagne won a silver medal Wednesday at Whitby’s Abilities Centre. She has climbed to fifth in the world in the under 52-kilogram class. And she’s well placed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Gagne wore an orange belt, three levels beneath brown, when she started training with Gosselin, a former Olympian and Pan Am medal winner in the same weight class.

“She was brave, I would have never have taken me on,” Gagne said. “I was a mess. I was poking her in the eyes. I mean, it was bad.”

If she was ever bad, it wasn’t evident Wednesday. Female judokas have four minutes to take each other down. She only needed 20 seconds to beat the U.S.’s Christina Thomas in the first of a four-fight round robin.

She went on to win twice more, losing only to the eventual gold medal winner, Brazilian Michele Ferreira.

Gosselin’s voice adds to that intensity, ringing out from the stands during every match and helping the fighter see through whatever pain she may feel.

Before taking the mat for the final fight, Gosselin offered this advice to Gagne, the only woman on Canada’s Parapan Am judo team : “Remember every time you find it tough on the mat, you’re sore, you’re hurt, you just want to give up: This is the big, this is your last match. Go for it. Give it all.”

Guelph native Justin Karn, bronze medalist at the 2011 Guadalajara Parapan Ams in the under-60 class, lost out on the medals after two straight losses Wednesday.

Ottawa’s Tony Walby, who also took bronze in 2011 in the above-100 class, and Alex Radoman round out the team.

Parapan Am judo runs Aug. 12-14.

Toronto Star

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