British Judoka’s bring the heat on day 1 at the Zagreb Grand Prix

The opening day of the Zagreb Grand Prix in Croatia saw six British Judoka in action. Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) was in scintillating form as he claimed silver. Nekoda Smythe-Davis (-57kg), making her return from injury, won bronze along with Chelsie Giles (-52kg) backing up her bronze at the recent European Games in Minsk.

Following an opening round bye, McKenzie defeated Daniel Ben-David (ISR), Mohamad Akkash (ROT) and Temur Nozadze (GEO) to win his Pool and progress to the semi-finals where he faced Tomer Golomb (POL). The young Polish player was no match for the vastly experienced McKenzie who defeated his opponent to set up a gold medal match against world number 7, Sharafuddin Lutfillaev (UZB). In the final Lutfillaev showed his experience as he defended numerous attacks from McKenzie and forced the Briton to concede three shido’s, meaning McKenzie was disqualified and had to settle for silver.

2018 World Championship silver medallist Smythe-Davis (-57kg) was seeded top of Pool C. After an opening round bye, she defeated Marica Perisic (SRB), Samanta Fiandino (ITA) and Telma Monteiro (POR) to win her Pool and progress to the semi-finals to face Jessica Klimkait (CAN), the player ranked just one place behind Smythe-Davis in the world rankings. The match was as close as expected with the players inseparable after 4-minutes. With Golden Score closing in on the 2-minute mark, it was the Canadian that found a winning score to progress to the final and relegate Smythe-Davis to the bronze medal match, where she faced Sarah Leonie Cysique (FRA). It took just 2-minutes for Smythe-Davis to defeat Cysique. She was clearly overwhelmed upon winning after months of hard work to get back to full competitive fitness.

Giles (-52kg) had a bye in the opening round before defeating Tinka Easton (AUS) in Golden Score to progress to the third round to face Anja Stangar (SLO). The next match was over in a little over 2-minutes with Giles progressing to the quarter-finals to face Da Sol Park (KOR). In a match that went to Golden Score it was the Korean that was able to find a winning score to move onto the semi-finals while Giles was progressed to the Repechage to face Reka Pupp (HUN), a player ranked just two places behind the Briton. The match went to Golden Score before Giles found a winning score to progress to the bronze medal match to face Bokyeong Jeong (KOR). Jeong, the Rio Olympic silver medallist at -48kg, and Giles were closely matched all contest and were inseparable until after the 5minute mark of Golden Score when Giles pinned her opponent to claim the bronze.

2018 European U23 Championship silver medallist Lele Nairne (-57kg) had a bye in the opening round before facing Loredana Ohai (ROU) in the second round. Despite the Romanian being ranked 68 places ahead of Nairne in the world rankings, it was the Briton who progressed courtesy of a waza-ari score. In the third round Nairne faced Eteri Liparteliani (GEO), in a closely contested match it was the Georgian who eventually prevailed courtesy of Nairne amassing three shido’s.

Kimberley Renicks (-48kg) defeated Aziza Chakir (MAR) in the opening round of her Pool D match before defeat in the second round to Li Yanan (CHN).

Ryan Burt (-60kg) was defeated by Luka Mkheidze (FRA) in the opening round.