Bronze joy for Powell in Budapest

Natalie Powell was the leading light for British judo on day two of the Budapest Grand Prix as she took a superb bronze medal.

Welsh judoka Powell (-78kg) produced a brilliant display in the bronze-medal match against Croatia’s Ivana Maranic, first throwing her for waza-ari and then holding and pinning her down for ippon.

After a bye in the first round, Powell, of the Irfon club and Welsh Judo Academy, powered into the quarter-finals with a win by ippon over Ukraine’s Anastasiya Turchyn. The last-eight enounter against Spain’s Marta Tort Merino, was much closer but again the Briton got the verdict by a single yuko.

That set up a semi-final against former world champion, and world silver medalist from 2013, Marhinde Verkerk of the Netherlands. And the Dutch woman’s experience was key as she took another tight contest with a late waza-ari. Powell still had the chance to win bronze but faced a tough-looking encounter against Maranic, a former junior world bronze medallist.

But Powell was not to be denied and quickly and over-powered her opponent to claim the final spot on the podium.

“This was Natalie’s first event of the Rio Olympic Games qualification period; and one of the final preparation events leading into Commonwealth Games in Glasgow,” said her Welsh Coach Craig Ewers. The event was self-funding.

“We knew the field would be tough as all the athletes are searching for a good start to the Olympic qualification; and this was certainly the case in Budapest. A recent goal for Natalie has been to start matches with increased intensity and Darren Warner who was the matside coach for Wales at this event commented that this was executed in Natalie’s performance today.

“The next event for Natalie is the Grand Slam Tyumen and Natalie will be looking to carry her form into this event with the aim of securing her first Grand Slam medal.”

Chris Sherrington (+100kg) also performed with great credit to make repecharge of his division before finally finishing seventh overall. Sherrington started impressively with a win by ippon over Jan Pinta of the Czech Republic, the Royal Marines Commandokwai member having already been leading by a waza-ari and a yuko before securing ippon. His good form continued in the next round as he beat Italy’s Alessio Mascetti by waza-ari to set up a quarter-final against Adam Orkashvili of Georgia. However, controversy then reared its head as Sherrington suffered Hansoko Make when the referee showed him a red card, for amassing four shidos, and awarded the contest to Orkashvili by ippon.

That left Sherrington to compete in the repecharge where the frustration continued as he lost by ippon to Stanislav Bondarenko of Ukraine.

Powell and Sherrington aside, there was largely disappointment for British judokas on the day, not least for British judo’s golden couple Gemma Gibbons and Euan Burton.

Olympic silver medalist Gibbons (-78kg) was in her first competitive action since recovering from a series of injuries and battled hard before losing 3-2 on shidos to Guusje Steenhuis of the Netherlands.

Meanwhile Gibbons’ husband and Edinburgh Ratho club-mate Burton (-100kg) saw his Commonwealth Games preparations suffer a blow as he was edged out by a single yuko by Austrian Christoph Kronberger.

In the same category as Burton, Ben Fletcher started well with a win by ippon over India’s Sahil Pathania in his opening contest.

But he was on the wrong end of an ippon in his next encounter as the Team Bath man lost out to Sweden’s Martin Pacek.

Fletcher’s sister, and fellow Team Bath member, Megan (-70kg) saw her competition end early as she was beaten by waza-ari in her first contest by France’s Margauz Pinot. Owen Livesey (-81kg) started strongly with a win by ippon over Josateki Nelu of Fiji in his first match.

But the Camberley club judoka’s hopes of reaching the latter stages were ended when he lost by a single wasa-ari to Srdjan Mrvaljeic of Montenegro.

Another Briton to suffer a narrow defeat was Tom Reed (-81kg) who lost on shidos to home favourite Laszlo Csoknyai in the second round. The Devizes club man had been given a bye through the first round.

Words by John Smith. Images IJF and Mike Varey.