Sports

The pioneer emerging from the shadows

When Danielle Bouchard became the first Canadian boxer to fight a world championship bout in July 2008, the event didn’t exactly make the headlines.

It must be said that in the hours leading up to his duel against WBA super-bantamweight champion Marcela Acuna in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Canadians had made sure to monopolize the attention of the sports press by announcing the Hiring of Georges Laraque.

Only the venerable boxing columnist of Montreal Journal Daniel Cloutier will deign to dedicate an article with quotes about the defeat of Bouchard by unanimous decision of the judges. It will also be the last professional shock of the Jonquiéroise then 40 years old.

Fortunately, times have changed a lot since then. Under the impetus of Marie-Ève ​​Dicaire, women’s boxing has experienced a meteoric rise in the Quebec market, so much so that most of the media will not miss anything of the confrontation between Kim Clavel and the WBC light flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez organized Friday night in the final of a Groupe Yvon Michel event at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal. The gala will also be presented live on pay-per-view television.

And a little more than fourteen years after the bitter disappointment experienced in Argentina, Bouchard will have a new opportunity to experience the intoxication of a conquest of a world championship, given that it was she who led Clavel so far. the. Portrait of a pioneer who finally emerges from the shadows.

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Originally, nothing predestined Danielle Bouchard to become a coach. Her career as an amateur boxer gives the impression of being a series of missed appointments: women’s boxing only became an Olympic sport in 2012 and she was too two months old to have the right to fight in the 1st edition of the World Championships in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 2001.

With nothing left to take from amateur boxing, she turned professional in 2002, but expectations were decidedly low. “I didn’t become world champion and I didn’t have the time to build my career to become one,” Bouchard said during a long and generous interview with RDS.ca last week. It really wasn’t easy…

“There was certainly not the enthusiasm that there is now. Young people now have beautiful role models, which we didn’t have at the time, with the exception of Christy Martin. »

To tell the truth, it was Bouchard herself who was the model for the female boxers around her. It was his training partner Nathalie Forget who was the first to seek his advice.

“You can’t improvise yourself as a trainer in the same way. It was Nathalie who had asked him to be one of her coaches, but [Danielle] initially replied that she was just going to give him a hand, recalls Bouchard’s spouse and internationally renowned coach Stéphan Laouche. Vicky Pelletier then grafted herself to this, Ariane Fortin came to do tricks. »

The successes accumulate and one thing leading to another, Bouchard will realize his Olympic dream at the Rio Games in 2016 alongside Mandy Bujold and Fortin. “I was the only female trainer in her own right,” she explains. I didn’t want to just be around and be the one giving water. I wanted to be in the ring, to be the one with the responsibility. It was a very good thriller. »

“What is especially impressive is that she has a full-time job as a teacher and she is very involved in that as well,” adds Larouche. Her planning, organization and working structure with all her athletes ensures that she always ends up being successful. She was able to develop beautiful relationships with her athletes, imbued with respect and justice. »

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The job in the amateur and pro ranks is basically the same, but it’s really when boxers find success in the pros that the trainers finally get some attention. This was the case for Larouche. It was also for Marc Ramsay.

That moment now seems ripe for Bouchard, as Clavel could become the second Quebecer after Dicaire to capture a world title on Friday night. This would prove to be the apotheosis of an association of more than eleven years which obviously goes back to the amateur ranks.

“I met her at a national team training camp after winning my first Canadian championship at 18,” Clavel said. With her, I saw a lot of things that I had never seen before in my hometown in Joliette. I wondered why I had never seen all of this and that’s when I asked her if she wanted to coach me.

“I take nothing away from my former coach Michel Morin, who is a very good coach who gave me confidence, but Danielle gave me wings. She showed me what it’s like to be a top athlete: how to think, reflect and become better. She is a true pioneer. »

Without trying to correct his protegee, Bouchard refuses to take all the credit. “When I decided to become a coach, I made my presentation about my team,” she says. It’s extremely important to surround athletes with people they really trust.

“I am thinking of our physical trainer Fred [Laberge]to Stephan, everyone’s mentor, to [mon frère] Pierre, who has been there since the beginning, to Sara [Kali], my right arm. Everyone takes care of a little everyone, everyone helps each other. That’s why it works! »

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Not all top athletes succeed in such a transition, but Bouchard had two assets for success: knowledge and the art of communicating it.

“She saw all the development of Éric Lucas, Lucian Bute, Leonard Dorin and Jean Pascal. She saw a lot of things around the world and had knowledge that lay dormant in her, lists Larouche. But above all, she is a great communicator and that plays a major role.

“The respect she shows and her ability to communicate ensure that her athletes are motivated and then achieve results. She takes care of several things: structure, calendar, schedule and planning of training and fights. It’s natural for her. »

Does she regret missing something? Of not having been able to reap the fruit of his hard work?

“At the start, you had to be a visionary, you really had to believe in it,” concedes Bouchard. [La lutteuse] Martina [Dugrenier] and I were inspired by women’s hockey at the time, it gave us a lot of hope even though we knew it was a process of about 20 years before our sports appeared in the Games. But the fact remains that we are not far from parity. We are only missing 3 minute rounds and 12 round world title fights.

“I may not have had the chance to participate in the Games, but my coaching journey allowed me to realize my dreams as an athlete. And I can say that it is just as rewarding. I never stopped believing in it: I told myself that the future would be beautiful for those who were going to get there. »

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