Bittersweet for McWatt as he finishes a career best 5th in Tel Aviv

On the second day of action at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam Stuart McWatt produced the best performance of his career to finish in fifth.

It was a great day for Kelly Petersen-Pollard, who finished 7th on her Grand Slam debut, while Lucy Renshall, also finished 7th, to gain valuable Olympic qualification points in what is a closely contested -63kg category.

Today’s action followed on from a fantastic opening day for British Judo which saw Chelsie Giles win gold and Ashley McKenzie finish in fifth.

Stuart McWatt (-81kg), competing for the first time in 13 months, entered Tel Aviv with a previous career high finish at a Grand Slam event coming in 2017 when he finished 7th in Dusseldorf.

Drawn in Pool C, McWatt had an opening round bye before facing Iura Sveinbjorg (ISL) in the second round. McWatt dominated the contest from the opening exchange and a single waza ari score was enough to see him progress to the 3rd round to face Sami Couchi (BEL), who defeated World Champion Sagi Muki (ISR) earlier in the day.

McWatt was in dominant form again and scored a waza-ari within the opening 20 seconds of the contest. He then defended well against the Belgian to progress to the quarter finals to face Sharofiddin Bolaboev (UZB).

McWatt was unfortunately defeated by Boltaboev, the fighter from Uzbekistan registering two waza-ari scores to proceed to the semi-finals, while McWatt progressed to the Repechage where he defeated Kenny Komi Bedel (ITA) by ippon score to proceed to the bronze medal match against 2x European bronze medallist Aslan Lappinagov (RUS).

McWatt started the bronze medal match well dominating the contest and his vasty experienced opponent. Unfortunately, an injury sustained during the contest forced McWatt to withdraw, handing victory, and the bronze medal, to his opponent.

Reflecting on the competition, McWatt said: “It was great to get back on the mat and compete today. I have been working hard over the past 12 months, alongside the rest of the men’s team at the Centre, and today was about getting out there and seeing where I am at, judo wise, compared to the top guys in the world. We have all been working hard in training, pushing each other daily, and it’s really starting to pay off with positive results.”

“I was a little rusty in the opening match but following that my judo started to flow. My gripping was good and my throws worked well for me.

“I am obviously gutted with how the day ended. I went into every match believing I was capable of winning and know that bronze medal was there for the taking.”

“I’m starting to feel like I belong on this stage now, I am in the best shape of my life, I just need to continue doing what I am doing and I am sure the results will continue to follow.”

The 2019 European Junior Champion, Petersen-Pollard, was drawn in Pool A. She defeated former European U23 Championship bronze medallist Minel Akdeniz (TUR) in the opening round following some excellent groundwork before facing former Masters Champion Maria Portela (BRA) in round 2.

After 4th minutes of Golden Score Petersen-Pollard progress to the quarter finals, after Portela amassed three penalty shidos, to face world no.1 Marie Eve Gahie (FRA) for a place in the semi-finals.

Gahie, the current World Champion, was in commanding form, attacking the young Brit from the start. Petersen-Pollard defended well but the experience of the French fighter saw her throw her opponent for ippon. Petersen-Pollard progressed to the Repechage to face 4x European Champion Kim Polling (NED).

Knowing a place in the bronze medal match was on the line, there was nothing between the two fighters as the contest entered Golden Score, where the experience of the Dutch fighter saw her throw the young Briton for ippon score.

Reflecting on her performance and making her Grand Slam debut, Kelly said: “It feels great to be at my first Grand Slam. I was so excited to be given the chance to fight at this level. I felt my training and preparation leading into the event has gone really well.”

“I’m really happy with finishing 7th as much as I would have loved a medal and to win, it gives me confidence as to what my current level of judo is, and this makes me even more excited for my next event.”

“Fighting the current World Champion was great, it is something I’ve been looking forward to and training for. I was slightly disappointed in how it went; however, I learnt a lot of valuable lessons from that fight which I’m going to start working on and improving for our next encounter.”

Lucy Renshall (-63kg) defeated Isabel Puche (ESP) in her opening round match with some excellent newaza, transitioning to sangaku and holding down her opponent to force the submission. In the seconds round Renshall defeated European Junior silver and World Junior bronze medallist Laura Fazliu (KOS). A waza-ari score in the 2nd minute of Golden Score enough to see her through to the quarter finals to face the current Olympic Champion Tina Trstenjak (SLO).

Unfortunately, Renshall was disqualified in the quarter-final contest, picking up a hansoku-make, for attacking against a straight arm, meaning she finished in 7th position overall.

Gemma Howell (-70kg) was competing in Tel Aviv a little over 12 months to the day that she claimed bronze at the Paris Grand Slam.

Howell, seeded 7th, defeated former World Junior Champion Szabina Gercsak (HUN) in the opening round with a shime waza to progress to round 2 to face Gabriella Willems (BEL).

Howell unfortunately amassed three penalty shidos in the round 2 match and was unfortunately defeated.

Eric Ham (-73kg), making his 3rd Grand Slam appearance in Tel Aviv, was drawn in Pool A, Ham defeated former Pan American Champion, Eduardo Barbosa (BRA), in the opening round. A great transition into osaekomi resulting in an ippon score and setting up a round 2 contest against top seed Tohar Butbul (ISR).

Unfortunately, Ham was defeated by the world number 6, a single waza ari score enough to see Butbul progress.

Amy Livesey (-63kg) had a long wait to get start her campaign following an opening round bye. In round 2 Livesey faced Stefania-Adelina Dobre (ROU). Livesey was a score up with the contest drawing to a close but was countered in the final 20seconds and thrown for ippon.

Tomorrow is the final day of competition in Tel Aviv and two British Judo fighters are in action.

Max Stewart (-90kg), who last competed in Perth in 2019, makes a welcome return competition facing former World Junior silver medallist Robert Florentino (DOM) in the second round, following an opening round bye.

Sarah Adlington (+78kg) will be making her 25th Grand Slam appearance in Tel Aviv. Seeded 7th, Adlington has an opening round bye and will face either Anzhela Gasparani (RUS) or Samira Bouizgarne (GER) in the second round.

Action gets underway at 8:30am (GMT) with Final Block is scheduled to commence at 15:00 (GMT).

British Judo will bring you a recap of how all your British fighters perform each day and you can follow the action on the British Judo social media channels. You can also watch the action live on the British Judo homepage.