Christa Deguchi on Saturday became the first-ever Canadian woman to reach the podium at the judo world championships, winning bronze in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The 22-year-old defeated Theresa Stoll of Germany by ippon, or the equivalent of a knockout in boxing, in the women's 57-kilogram class.
"It's a big day for me," Deguchi told Judo Canada from her first world event. "I'm proud to be a pioneer. My next goal is to win the Osaka Grand Slam [in November] but my biggest dream is to win at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics."
Deguchi had lost by waza-ari to former teammate Tsukasa Yoshida of Japan in the semifinals after defeating Nora Gjakova of Kosovo in the quarter-finals. She also beat Ri-hyo Sun of North Korea and Corina Stefan of Romania earlier in the tournament, which is part of the Olympic qualification process.
"I was aiming for gold but I was lacking in skills," said Deguchi, whose father is Canadian. "Tsukasa was stronger than me, especially in the golden score."
Watch Christa Deguchi make Canadian judoka history:
Deguchi, who was born in Nagano and switched allegiances to Canada in 2017 after struggling to make the Japanese national squad, was a junior world champion for Japan in 2013 and 2014.
At the European Open in February, she won all five of her matches by ippon on the way to a gold medal in Lisbon, Portugal.
Deguchi beat Yoshida a week later for the biggest title of her young career at the prestigious Paris Grand Slam.
Canadians defeat reigning Olympic champ
On May 25, Deguchi took gold at the Hohhot Grand Prix in China, where she downed reigning Olympic champion Rafaela Silva before prevailing in the final against fellow Canadian Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont.
For Canada to have two girls performing at such a high level in this category assures us that one of them can be on the podium or close to it in every competition. — Judo Canada CEO and high performance director Nicolas Gill
In late July, Deguchi also won a gold medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix in Croatia.
Klimkait posted a 2-1 record in Azerbaijan, beating Sandra Borges of Cabo Verde and Silva and losing to Mongolia's Sumiya Dorjsuren, who shared bronze with Deguchi.
"For Canada to have two girls performing at such a high level in this category assures us that one of them can be on the podium or close to it in every competition," said Judo Canada CEO and high performance director Nicolas Gill, an Olympic medallist for Canada in 1992 and 2000.
On the men's side Saturday, Antoine Bouchard of Saguenay and Montreal's Arthur Margelidon were eliminated in the opening round in the 73 kg division.
On Sunday, three Canadians will be on the mat: Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (Saint Hubert, Que.) and Stéfanie Tremblay (Saguenay) in the women's 63 kg class and Étienne Briand (Sept-Îles) in the men's 81 kg bracket.