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2015 Pan: The incredible story of how no opponent touched Monique Elias’ injured ankle

Monique Elias had a 10-0 lead on Tammy Griego at their adult open class quarterfinal match, on Saturday, at the 2015 Pan. The Alliance black belt was on Tammy’s back looking for the lapels and the choke that would end the encounter early. That’s when she made a vital mistake and crossed her feet in front of Tammy, instead of keeping the hooks in place. The ankle lock came with full force and Monique was left with a badly injured left ankle after she tapped.

Monique gets medical attention after the ankle lock. Photo by Ivan Trindade/GRACIEMAG
Monique gets medical attention after the ankle lock. Photo by Ivan Trindade/GRACIEMAG

She later commented on the injury and the sadness that followed: “I have always said that I was a bit afraid of the open class because of the risk of injury and not being able to compete in my weight division later. Maybe it was a punishment or a gift, I don’t know, but I ended up hurting my ankle on my first open class match. Honestly, I felt the sole of my foot touch my heel. The pain reached my soul! All I could think of was that I was out of my division and the WPJJC, the Brazilian Nationals and the Worlds. I knew it was a pretty serious injury, but there was no way out of it. I did my best to heal it fast, with ice, anti-inflamatory medicine and a lot of crying!”

Even so, the next day, things did not look good, as Monique told GRACIEMAG’s Vitor Freitas: “My husband and Professor Mario Reis looked at my ankle and said that I could not compete. He said I could injury it even more and be out of the following tournaments. It was so painfull to hear that, but I thought that I was going to do it anyway. It was hard to even walk once I had to put all the weight on the other leg and so I would end up with pain on my hip and right knee. I tried to adapt my game and not use my left foot much and decided that if it hurt too much I would quit.”

Monique fighting Marilia da Conceição with the taped ankle. An easy target. Photo by Ivan Trindade/GRACIEMAG
Monique fighting Marilia da Conceição with the taped ankle. An easy target. Photo by Ivan Trindade/GRACIEMAG

Sunday came and the fact is that something unexpected happened. Monique entered to fight each one of her three middleweight matches with a very noticeable limp, not to mention the bandage on the left ankle. It would be easy to defeat her. All the opponent would have to do would be to attack that foot. But no one did! Not Marilia da Conceição Vieira or Megan Nevill nor even her opponent in the final, Luiza Monteiro.

Monique herself was amazed with her opponents’ decision: “Fortunately I had three matches with three people of great character, which did not attack my foot. I thought that was a very noble act by them. It was an undescribable feeling!”

Just to make one thing clear, there’s nothing illegal to attack an injured limb. It’s a decision made by the athlete to keep on fighting while injured. So, neither Marília, Megan or Luiza would be breaking any rule by going for a foot lock on Monique’s left ankle.

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The final match against Luiza Monteiro. Photo by Ivan Trindade/GRACIEMAG

The problem is sometimes there are things much more important than what the rules say and that’s one of the carachteristcs that divide champions from merely winners. When asked why she didn’t go for Monique’s foot, Luiza Monteiro was honest: “ I wanted to beat her at her best. I wanted to pass her guard and tap her; I didn’t want to go after her foot. That would not prove I’m better than her.”

After all that, all we can say is that the adult female black belt middleweight division at the 2015 Pan had one brave champion who won the gold medal and three other noble champions who knew what being a true competitor is all about.

By the way, here’s how that kind of ankle lock works:

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