Tokyo 2020: Here We Come

Concordia Olympians Reflect on Rio and Talk What’s to Come

  • Ecaterina Guica (in blue) fighting Natalia Kuziutina of Russia. Photo courtesy of Jason Ransom

  • Bianca Farella (third from the right) on the podium. Photo courtesy of Jason Ransom

The Olympic flame was extinguished on August 21, marking the end of the summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

For former Concordia student Bianca Farella and current student Ecaterina Guica, the flame remains flickering from a distance—8,078 kilometres to be exact. The pair is eying Tokyo, home of the next Olympic games in 2020.

Farella won the bronze medal as a member of the Canadian rugby sevens team, defeating Great Britain 33-10. It was the first time this sport was included in the Olympics since 1924.

Guica finished ninth overall in the 52-kilogram judo event, losing to Natalia Kuziutina of Russia in the round of 16.

Bianca Farella: Rugby Sevens

Up until about two years ago, Farella thought that she had attained the highest level of competition available for rugby. She helped Canada win silver at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in 2013. Along with wins at the World University Championship in 2014 and top place finishes in Women’s Sevens World Series, it seemed that Farella had done it all.

Then, rugby sevens was included in this year’s summer games. The 24-year-old Montreal native and her teammates had one thing on their minds.

“We wanted gold,” said Farella. “Really wanted gold.”

Unfortunately, team Canada fell short of that goal losing to the Australian powerhouse 17-5 in the semi-finals. The Aussies went on to win the gold medal against New Zealand.

“Once we lost against Australia in the semis, it was a tough blow for a lot of us,” shew said.

The team had no time to dwell on their loss though. Throughout the entire tournament spanning from August 6 to 11, each team played twice within the same day for three consecutive days. Win or lose, players had to shake off any remaining feelings from the previous matchup.

“We had four hours between our lost-semi-final and our bronze medal match,” she explained. “We each took our time to be upset. For me it was a good ten minutes of accepting that our gold medal was officially out of reach.”

Canada was set to face Great Britain for a spot on the podium. The Brits had lost to New Zealand 25-7 but had the edge on the Canadians after defeating them in preliminaries. Farella and her team successfully rebounded, making history by winning in rugby sevens inaugural introduction to the Olympics.

The level of competition Farella faced at the Olympics wasn’t new to her. She believes that since rugby sevens was officially included in the games, teams got more funding. Consequently, the parity between the nations has become smaller and smaller.

While winning the bronze medal was an accomplishment in and of itself, Farella was also happy to see rugby gain recognition on the international stage and inspire people to pursue their goals.

“Since I’ve arrived in Canada, I’ve heard congratulatory messages from my grandfather’s customer’s neighbour for example,” said Farella. “Our support system is way bigger than I ever imagined.”

Now that Farella is back in Montreal, she plans on taking it easy for a while after five years of intensive training.

“I’d love to go camping with my boyfriend in British Columbia, I think that will be a short term plan,” she said. “But I also want to stay away from a schedule.”

Ecaterina Guica: Judo

“I’ve dreamt of the Olympics since I was really little,” said Guica.

The current Concordia student started practicing judo at the age of five. Her father and coach, Catalin, was a three-time Romanian champion. Her passion for the sport flourished when she was 14-years-old during a tournament in Brazil.

“In Canada I was often winning when I was younger so it became a little bit easier,” said Guica. “And then when you get to a level where the judo is so strong and you realize that being able to medal here would mean so much, you kinda start to chase after that.”

Guica is considered to be one of the best judokas in the 52-kilogram weight class. At the age of 18, she was ranked top ten in her weight class. Last year, the 22-year-old collected a bronze medal from the Pan American Championships in Montreal, a silver medal from the Pan Am Games in Toronto and a gold medal at the Oceania Open in Wollongong, Australia.

Her weigh-in was on August 6—the first day of the competition—her fight was the next day, and it was suddenly all over. Losing to Kuziutina, who later went on to capture the bronze medal, was a hard pill to swallow.

“It was really disappointing,” she said. “I was hoping to do well. I wasn’t one of the favourites to win a medal but I was obviously hoping I could cause a surprise.”

Guica is hungry for more. She is using her first-time experience at the Olympics as a source of motivation for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Her priorities have shifted from trying to earn points through competitions to partaking on the international circuit.

“I want to set my goals a little bit higher than trying to medal at Pan Ams,” she said. “I want to be able to get a top seven finish at [the World Championships] or try to medal in Grand Slams.”

Guica also realized that certain areas of her judo need to be improved in order to compete with judokas from other strong countries like Russia. Gripping situations and other technicalities are some of the things she wants to improve and perfect.

“I feel like I was strong for my weight class,” explained Guica. “But then I found that these girls are […] a lot stronger and that needs to be taken into account as well.”

As the new school year approaches, much of Guica’s focus will be channeled towards her degree in psychology. Taking some time off before the beginning of the new school year is a top priority for her. However, she won’t keep herself away from training for too long in anticipation for upcoming tournaments.

“Some people take longer rest but I’m really eager,” Guica said.

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