Gemma Gibbons ended her year with a superb bronze medal at the Tokyo Grand Slam on Sunday 6 December.
The -78kg fighter became the first British woman to medal at the Tokyo Grand Slam and she had a tough route on her way to the podium twice producing exciting comeback victories.
Her first contest saw her take on Hyunji Yoon (KOR) and the British judoka was able to secure her passage into the second round after a tough fight as she scored just the single shido to Yoon’s two.
In the second round Akari Ogata (JPN), 2015 Baku and Paris Grand Slam medallist, looked to have the tie sown up as she led by a couple of shidos going into the final seconds of the contest. However with less than seven seconds left on the clock Gibbons threw her opponent for waza-ari before securing the hold down for ippon.
The quarter-final was another rematch with Olympic champion Kayla Harrison (USA) and Gibbons took the lead by scoring yuko a minute into the contest however the American showed her class as she threw the British judoka not long after and with the completed hold down took the win.
This forced Gibbons down into the repechage and she took on 2014 World champion Mayra Aguiar (BRA) in her next contest. However the British fighter made short work of the Brazilian as she threw her for ippon less than twenty seconds into the contest and ensured she would be fighting for a bronze medal.
Her opponent in the bronze medal match was another Japanese judoka in Ruika Sato who had won Grand Slam medals in Paris and Tyumen earlier this year. The home fighter took the lead just over two minutes into the contest scoring for waza-ari before Gibbons responded shortly after with a yuko.
It wouldn’t take long for the British judoka to score again this time for waza-ari with just 48 seconds left on the clock and despite conceding a couple of shidos, she did more than enough to hold off the Japanese judoka for bronze.
Unsurprisingly Gibbons was delighted with the result:
“I am really pleased with today’s result. I have always dreamt of getting a Tokyo Grand Slam medal and today I achieved that. It’s great to have medalled at all three tournaments on the Asia tour, a nice end to the year.”
Elite Performance Coach Jean-Paul Bell was pleased with how Gibbons had performed throughout the day:
“Excellent all-round performance today! Great attacking judo and defeated strong opposition including throwing Aguiar the former World champion from Brazil.
“Lots of positives to take and things to reinforce for next year. This was her third medal after three weeks in Asia and a great way to end a strong year.”
Sarah Adlington (+78kg) was also in action but lost out to Tessie Savelkouls (NED) in her first round contest.