Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons and Sarah Adlington both won bronze medals for Great Britain at the International Judo Federation (IJF) Moscow Grand Slam.
All four senior British women fighting today- Gibbons, Adlington, Natalie Powell and Sally Conway – reached their respective bronze medal fights in the Russian capital, although only two ultimately went on to medal.
Gibbons (-78kg), in her first event since recovering from a broken wrist, began with victory by waza-ari over Russian Alana Kanteeva.
That set up a quarter-final against Marhinde Verkerk of The Netherlands in a rematch from their last-eight clash at London 2012.
However, this time, it was the Dutchwoman who prevailed by the narrowest of margins, 1-2 on shidos, sending Gibbons into the repechage.
But from then on, Gibbons was on top form, beating Ukranian Victoria Turks by ippon in her opening repechage contest before sealing the bronze medal by beating another Dutchwoman, Iris Lemmen, by two yukos.
“Today wasn’t my best performance by far but considering I have been out for months and only back doing randori for three weeks, to take the bronze medal is good,” said Gibbons after the competition.
“It is my first Grand Slam medal so its also nice to now be a Grand Slam medallist.
“I’m glad I pushed to come back for this competition so I can now go into the World Championships with some fights under my belt.”
Meanwhile, three-time world cup winner Adlington (+78kg) scored three ippons on her way to bronze, her first medal on the IJF world tour.
She opened with an ippon victory over Ksenia Chibisova of Russia but then lost by the same score to Germany’s Jasmin Kuelbs in round two.
However, in the repechage, she was unstoppable winning by ippon against Brazilian Rochele Nunes and then in the bronze final itself against another German, former double junior European Champion and European bronze medallist Franziska Konitz where she also performed a superb osotogari leg throw.
“Its not the best day I’ve had but it feels really good to finally get a grand slam medal and not a fifth place,” said Adlington.
“I was pleased with the bronze fight as I lost to the German last time we met, so revenge was good.”
Powell’s competition began with victory over Portugal’s Yahima Ramirez in round one by yuko but she then lost to world number two Abigel Joo of Hungary by ippon.
That sent the British number two at -78kg into the repechage where she produced an excellent display to beat Mongolian Munkhtuya Battulga, who is one place above her in the world rankings, by a yuko.
In a twist of fate, she then found herself up against Gibbons’ nemesis Verkerk in the fight for bronze but again the Dutchwoman dashed British hopes with a narrow win by yuko to leave Powell fifth overall.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Conway who also finished fifth after losing her battle for the -70kg bronze against IJF Masters bronze medallist Linda Bolder of the Netherlands.
Conway opened her competition with an ippon win over Russian Ekaterina Denisenkova but then lost by waza-ari to Japan’s Arai Chizuru in round two.
She began her repechage in fine style with an ippon victory over Barbara Timo of Brazil. But Bolder proved a bridge too far in the bronze-medal match.
After making a strong start to the competition in his debut senior year, Philip Awiti-Alcaraz, exited in the second round after being defeated by four-time IJF Masters winner Sergey Samoilovich of Russia.
Awiti-Alcaraz led by a yuko at the start but the Russian overpowered him with an ippon. His opening contest in the mens’ -100kg weight category also yielded a yuko and a waza-ari, culminating in an ippon victory against Frederick Joergensen of Denmark.
Commenting on the performances, Kate Howey, said: “I am really proud of all my girls who all reached the repechage final today.
“Gemma came back after injury with a superb performance. Against the Dutch girl it only came down to shidos two to one and with Gemma’s strength not 100 per cent, she was unlucky, although she has beat her on two other occasions including in the Olympics. Overall, however, this is a really good start and she should take a lot of confidence with her to her next competition, which is the World Championships in Rio.
“Sarah also gave a fantastic performance with three ippons too.”
Looking forward to the World Championships in Rio and commenting on the overall performance of GB at the Grand Slam, Howey added: “Going forwards to Rio we have performed well in Moscow. We secured a silver yesterday in the men’s final and two bronze’s and two fifths for the women, so we start the countdown to the World’s in a good place.”
Words by Donna Richardson
Photo © IJF Media by Zahonyi