She may not call Red Deer home anymore, but Jaquina Simao was thrilled to be back in Alberta when she won her second straight national judo title.
Fighting in the 63 kg category, Simao won the senior womens title at the national competition in Calgary on May 15.
In a field of six different competitors, she swept the round robin portion and then won two straight matches in the playoffs without surrendering a point against her.
“The first to matches were kind of slow, they were warm up fights. I was getting used to being back on the mats,” said Simao, who missed four months with a concussion.
“Then the last two went really, really well.”
She felt confident going into the event in Calgary, but was under pressure as the reigning national champion.
“I just try to take a step back, realize why I feel the pressure and appreciate it,” said Simao. “I feel pressure because I really care about how I do and the result because I put in the hours.”
It was the first time Simao fought in front of her family and friends in a very long time with them still living in Western Canada and her in Quebec. She’s been in judo since she was seven-years-old.
For the second straight year, Simao won a national title. The 20-year-old from Red Deer has lived in Montreal for the last four years. At 16, she graduated from Notre Dame High School and went to Quebec to train with the Canadian National Judo Team.
A year before, she won senior and junior categories at judo nationals, but this year she could only compete at the senior level.
“When I was 16 I decided I want to move to Montreal and train with the national team and pursue it as a full time job,” she said. “That’s when I decided to be serious about it.”
She has her sights set on competing at the Olympics one day, but concedes she won’t be ready for the upcoming games in Rio de Janerio.
“I’m pretty young for Rio, but in 2020 that’s where my head is at,” she said.
After competing at nationals, Simao came home to Red Deer for a stay with family and running in the half marathon at the Woody’s Marathon on May 22.