Chelsie Giles claimed her first major title as she added the European crown to her Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo on the opening day of the European Championships in Sofia.
Following an opening round bye, Giles overcame a tricky opening round contest against Aleksandra Kaleta (POL). The contest entered Golden Score where Giles unleashed her trademark newaza to book her place in the Quarter-Finals.
Giles booked her place in the Semi-Finals following a hard fought 8-minute contest against 2x Olympic medallist Odette Giuffrida (ITA). Giles countering a Giuffrida attack, turning her for waza-ari score.
If the opening two contests were a battle of endurance, the Semi-Final was all about strength and power. It took Giles just 90 seconds to defeat Mascha Ballhaus (GER) to secure her place in the Final. Giles displayed some excellent newaza to progress to the Final Block to face world number one, Amandine Buchard (FRA).
There was nothing between the two fighters at the end of the mandatory 4-minutes and the contest entered Golden Score. Two shidos either side of Golden Score put Giles onto the backfoot. An onslaught of Buchard attacks followed, which Giles defended well before the scorecard was evened up at two shidos each.
Giles continued to bide her time and when another Buchard attack came, she countered for waza-ari score to claim her first major title.
Giles adds gold in Sofia to the bronze she won at the European Games in 2019 and becomes Britian’s first European Champion since Sarah Clark in 2006.
A speechless Giles couldn’t quite believe what she had achieved: “I cannot believe it. It’s so overwhelming, I think it will take a while to fully sink in.”
Giles has faced Buchard on three previous occasions, with the French fighter coming out on top an all three occasions. Speaking about what she has changed this time, Giles said: “I have spent a lot of time studying those losses to see what I did well and where I can improve. Jamie and I worked on a plan and I am so happy it paid off today.”
“I am looking forward to having some time off now and enjoy the moment before the hard work starts for the remainder of the season.”
It was a tough start for GB Judo as there were opening round exits for our -60kg fighters Sam Hall and Ashley McKenzie, -66kg fighters Gregg Varey and Alex Short whilst in the -57kg category Acelya Toprak also suffered an opening round defeat.
Hall was defeated by Francisco Mendes (POR), while McKenzie suffered a Golden Score defeat to Matan Kokolayev (ISR).
Varey gave a good account of himself on his European debut, but came up against Elios Manzi (ITA). An early throw for waza-ari score for Manzi meant Varey had to push for a score in the closing stages but was caught for an ippon score.
Short unfortunately had to tap out of his opening round contest against Baruch Shmailov (ISR) after the Israeli fighter applied an arm lock.
Meanwhile Toprak was unfortunately picked up a third shido in her opening round contest against Arleta Podolak (POL).
Day 2 promises to be an exciting day for GB Judo with top seed and world number 2 Lucy Renshall competing in the -63kg. Renshall is joined by Gemma Howell whilst in the -70kg category, Kelly Petersen-Pollard and Jemima Yeats-Brown are in action.
For the men, Dan Powell makes his senior European Championship debut, whilst there is another debutant in the -81kg category as Stuart McWatt is joined by Lachlan Moorhead.
Preliminary Round action starts at 7:30am (BST) with Final Block scheduled to commence at 14:00.
Watch all the action from the European Championships in Sofia LIVE on the British Judo homepage.