TOKYO — Canadian boxer Tammara Thibeault's Olympic quest will continue after she won her middleweight bout against Nadezhda Ryabets of Kazakhstan by split decision on Wednesday.
Thibeault was scored higher by four of the five judges following a hard-fought match during which the more compactly built Ryabets displayed a much rougher style.
The 24-year-old from Shawinigan, Que., received winning scores of 30-27 from three judges and 29-28 from a fourth, while the fifth scored her opponent narrowly ahead.
"We knew her, we knew what kind of opponent we had," said coach Daniel Trépanier.
"We knew it was a fight within Tammara's grasp, but it wouldn't be easy. Ryabets doesn’t allow you to express your talent, as she constantly changes sides. We knew we had a chance to get this fight, but it wouldn't be exciting, it would be difficult technically and tactically."
Thibeault said the height difference and her opponent's distinctive style added to the complexity of the fight.
"It was certain that it was different: she was really shorter than me and her shots didn't land in the same place as usual," said Thibeault, a Pan American Games silver medallist.
Ryabets persistently tried to get close enough to Thibeault to score points, resulting in a wild fight where Ryabets kept hanging on.
"She has a particular style," Thibeault said. "It just shows us what adjustments to bring to the next fight, regardless of which adversary will be in front of me."
Wednesday's match was Thibeault's first since 2019, and she said she was relieved to have broken the ice.
"I'm happy with my performance and I'll stay concentrated on what I have to do as of now," she said.
With the win, Thibeault advanced to the quarterfinals of the women's middleweight, where she'll take on the Netherlands' Nouchka Fontijn.
Her victory came just moments after teammate Caroline Veyre lost a unanimous decision in her featherweight quarterfinal bout against Italian Irma Testa.
The French-born Montrealer struggled against her more experienced opponent's long reach and was unable to get in close to Testa, who kept her at bay with sharp jabs.
"I wanted to put the pressure on and I thought she would get tired from that pressure," Veyre said.
However, her opponent was able to pivot away, and did not tire.
Veyre improved in the third round, but it was too little, too late.
"We knew the opponent was tall and difficult to face," Veyre said. "She's had a lot of success lately, notably winning the qualifiers in Europe ... It was hard at first and we expected her to falter faster, to be able to impose our rhythm like we did in the third."
Testa, who surprised by beating Ireland's Michaela Walsh earlier in the tournament, was declared the winner by all five judges and will move on to the semifinals.
Veyre will be packing her bags, but not without lessons learned.
"There are plenty of other boxers in this division that have her size: I have to get used to that style of boxing, that I learn from that," said the French-born Montrealer, who is planning to box more in Europe and may aim for the next Olympics.
"I'm really happy to have reached the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games after a year of inactivity," she said. "It's fantastic."
All four seeded boxers in the featherweight division were eliminated in the round of 16 after getting a pass through the first round.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021
Frédéric Daigle, The Canadian Press