Ashley McKenzie followed up last week’s European bronze medal with a fifth place and Louise Renicks took seventh in day one of the Baku Grand Slam, Azerbaijan.
The IJF World Tour event is one of the top ranking events of the year and the final event where athletes can secure a place at the ‘top 16 only’ IJF Masters event in Tyumen at the end of the month.
McKenzie, 23, went into the event after recording the best result of his career, winning an -60kg bronze medal at the European Championships in Budapest and the event started well with a comprehensive victory, throwing Dmytro Atanov of Ukraine for ippon in little over a minute.
This set up a pool final against home athlete and former world bronze medallist Ilgar Mushkiyev. McKenzie started well, getting an early yuko on the board and then finished the contest scoring ippon in under one minute, booking a place in the semi-final.
The semi saw Ashley face Mongolian top seed Amartuyshin Dashdavaa in an extremely tight contest. The scores stayed level until close to the end of the contest when the Mongolian recorded a waza-ari score to win the contest.
The bronze medal contest had McKenzie up against Russia’s Robert Mshvidobadze. Despite fighting well, Mckenzie went a score down before being thrown for ippon 30 seconds from the end whilst trying to find a way back into the contest.
Louise Renicks was also in action at -52kg. Her first contest saw a comprehensive victory over Amartuvshin Dashdavaa of Azerbaijan, with some solid groundwork forcing the home athlete to ‘tap out’ for ippon.
The win set up a pool final with Finland’s Janna Sundberg with Renicks losing out to the Finn by ippon. The repechage saw Renicks face Mareen Kraeh in a pulsating contest which saw the German go an early yuko up before Renicks responded, throwing for waza-ari. Kraeh then scored a waza-ari of her own before catching Renicks for ippon as she chased the contest.
British Judo Support Coach Luke Preston said: “Ashley showed another consistent performance at the very top level and was unlucky not to medal.
“Hopefully this will now be enough points for qualification for the IJF Masters in three weeks.”
Sally Conway and Tom Davis will be taking to the tatami on Sunday 5th May.
The action will be streamed live at www.ippon.tv with British Judo providing regular updates through Twitter, Facebook and www.britishjudo.org.uk.
Action starts at 07:00 BST (11:00 AZST) with the final block commencing at 13:00 BST (17:00 AZST).
Image courtesy of Zahoni – IJF