Natalie Powell put in a world-class performance to win -78kg gold at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam on Saturday 28 October.
This was Powell’s first Grand Slam gold and with 1000 world ranking points for gold medallists, this result should also see her move to the top of the world rankings at -78kg by the start of next week.
The British judoka was going into the Grand Slam ranked second in the world at -78kg behind Mayra Aguiar (BRA). Provided she finished ahead of the Brazilian on the day, Powell would likely overtake Aguiar at the top of the rankings.
Powell started her day against Israel’s Yarden Meyersohn and in a comfortable performance the British judoka won by two waza-ari.
World No.3 Guusje Steenhuis (NED) was next up in the semi-finals with the Dutch judoka holding a 6-2 winning record going into the contest.
This time though Powell showed the benefits of a strength training block to out fight her opponent with a waza-ari from a lovely sasae. Steenhuis came back strong in the final minute but Powell held her ground despite conceding a second shido.
The final would be a rematch of her bronze medal contest from the 2017 World Championships in Budapest as she took on former world champion Marhinde Verkerk (NED).
In another tactical contest, Powell’s superior gripping and power repeatedly forced Verkerk on the defensive. With half of the contest gone Verkerk had picked up two shidos as she struggled to match Powell.
Going into the final minute Powell did well to prevent Verkerk from attacking which brought the third and final shido to give the British fighter the win and the gold medal.
Speaking before her medal ceremony, Powell said:
“I was really pleased with the result today. I’ve been in a heavy strength block and I felt the extra strength helped today.
“I’m now looking forward to going to Japan for a few weeks of training to build on my technique and intensity before the competitions at the end of the year.”
Kate Howey MBE, GB Senior Elite Performance Coach, was full of praise for Powell’s performance on the day:
“Natalie fought really well today and showed real class both mentally and physically. She has been on a heavy weights block and this showed on the mat.
“Tactically she showed real maturity in beating both Dutch girls and even scoring with ashi-waza. This win should put her as World Number 1 on the ranking list heading into the next Grand Slam in Tokyo.
“She now has the next month in Japan preparing for it and to fine tune everything she is working on. I am really pleased for her!”
Powell’s gold meant that GB Judo finished with three medals at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam after silver and bronze for Lucy Renshall (-63kg) and Nekoda Davis (-57kg). They also finished fourth in the medal table.