Definition of the word “epic”: heroic or grand in scale or character. That is certainly what the final day of judo competition at the Paralympic Games offered, with a Gold and Silver medal for GB Judo.
Chris Skelley secured Britain’s first Gold medal at a Paralympic Games since Simon Jackson in 1996 with a dominant display in the -100kg competition at the Nippon Budokan.
Just moments earlier, Elliot Stewart claimed GB’s first judo medal of the Games with an assured day on the mat in the -90kg competition.
Skelley, who has a visual impairment and is classified as a B2 athlete, finished a heart-breaking fifth in Rio five years ago, but made amends by beating American Ben Goodrich by waza-ari in the gold medal bout in Tokyo.
The current World No.1 in the -90kg category, who beat Uzbekistan’s Sharif Khalilov in the quarter-final and Oliver Upmann of Germany in the semi-finals, both by ippon.
An emotional Skelley was lost for words following a heart warming embrace with his Coach Ian Johns after victory.
“I’m in disbelief! Eleven years ago, I was in the darkest part of my life because everything left me, and the only thing left was my judo.”
“I never expected to do this as a job. It’s my hobby, I love it – I love it because I love judo and to stand here and talk to you now as a Paralympic champion, I’m lost for words.”
“To have that come true today, I couldn’t believe it.”
“To be honest, the final was an awful fight! It was just a dogged, horrible fight, and Ben Goodrich is a fantastic athlete and he’s pushed me all the way. I’m buzzing.”
“It’s put a big target on my back now, so I need to get back and train even harder to stay where I am.”
Moments before Skelley’s gold, ParalympicsGB teammate Elliot Stewart won the silver in the men’s -90kg class.
Stewart lost in the final to Iran’s Vahid Nouri but was able to manage one better than his dad, Dennis, who won judo bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
“It went amazing,” said Stewart, who beat Uzbekistan’s Shukhrat Boboev and Oleksandr Nazarenko en route to the final. “I had some hard fights. I had a really tough draw, but I knew I’d done the work.
“I got bested in the final. He’s a really good opponent. I made a little bit of a mistake, but I’m pleased with my performance and pleased with my achievements.
“It’s a dream come true for me and for my dad. He’s always wanted me to do just as well as he has, even better, so I’m sure he will be super happy.”
Jack Hodgson was eliminated in the opening round of the +100kg competition by Azerbaijan’s Ilham Zakiev.
It was a scrappy contest that went all the way to Golden Score and was unfortunately settled by shidos. The Brit can count himself unlucky though with the Azerbaijan fighter offering very little attacking intent throughout the match, but it was Hodgson who eventually picked up the third caution.