Priscilla Gagne is on the up after winning her first World Championships medal in 2018 and is now aiming for Paralympic gold at Tokyo 2020.
The Canadian judoka claimed bronze in Odivelas, Portugal, last November in the women’s up to 52kg. That followed on from her Americas title at the start of the year.
She is now preparing for the new competition season with a clear master plan: “I am focusing on my trainings and on polishing certain things such as my mental focus, my physical health and just being fully prepared for everything that is coming.”
Tokyo 2020 is still a relatively long way off in the calendar, but at the front of her mind. It would be Gagne’s second Paralympics after Rio 2016, where she finished fifth. For next year, her goal is clear: to give her utmost and beat that result.
“I have confidence that what we are doing is going to pay off. Up to a couple of years, what I can do is keep training and do what I know to do.
“I have no regrets and no matter what happens, my coach is giving me good support. So optimistically, yes, I think I am prepared to win. That is the goal, so we are just going to do everything possible to make that happen.”
Fighting the odds
For a naturally competitive person like Gagne, judo means the chance to show her skills.
“I love the combat, to be honest. I have done other sports at high levels, but I love judo because it is competitive and visually impaired people can still live combat in sport.
It shows you to fight the odds.”
That attitude has landed her on the podium several times since her debut in 2009. From her first silver medal at the 2015 Parapan American Games to gold at the 2018 Pan American Championships. And her career seems to be at its peak.
Gagne explained that “communication, honesty and empathy” between an athlete and coach are key to good results. That, and the ability to adapt to the situation on the mat.
“Honestly, I am not a very skilful competitor. I rely a lot on muscle, reaction and listening to my coach. I am just strategising; I think if there is a skill to be told that is strategy.”
Gagne is grateful for judo because of the chance it gave her to develop great friendships.
“I have got the privilege of becoming close to the people that otherwise I would have never had the chance to know, and I think in Canada I am honoured to have shared this journey with the people I have met.”
Before Tokyo 2020 two major events await Gagne. The first will be the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games from 23 August-1 September. It will be followed by the American Championships in Montreal, Canada, in January 2020.