Natalie Powell has moved to the top of the world rankings at -78kg after her gold medal at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam on Saturday 28 October.

Powell is the first British female judoka to secure top spot and adds to a stellar 2017 so far for the Welsh fighter.

She won her second European Championship medal with bronze in Warsaw in April and followed that up in May as she reached her first Grand Slam final, winning silver in Ekaterinburg.

A silver at the Cancun Grand Prix in June followed before she won her first World Championship medal in August as she beat Marhinde Verkerk (NED) by ippon.

That result in Budapest moved her up to 2nd in the world rankings with Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar ahead of her.

With only 138 points separating the two and with World No.3 Guusje Steenhuis (NED) not far behind there was always a chance that ranking could change hands before the year was out.

At the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, Aguiar’s defeat in the semi-final to Verkerk opened the door for Powell or Steenhuis to take top spot.

The British judoka saw off Steenhuis by waza-ari in a close semi-final before proving too strong for Verkerk in the final. The 1000 world ranking points have seen Powell move up to 4300 points though Aguiar’s bronze on Saturday means she is not too far behind on 4190.

Powell will next be in action at the Tokyo Grand Slam in December.

Speaking after the event she said: “I think being the first number one for Britain is pretty cool, amazing.

“I was just really happy. It’s always been a goal of mine to get there.

“I’ve still got a lot of work to do and there’s still the Japanese girls I really need to get to grips with and consistently start beating them and the Brazilian girl as well.

“I know I’ve made it to number one but I’ve really got to work hard on staying there. But to get there first is something that’s really important to me.”

Kate Howey MBE, GB Senior Elite Performance Coach said:

“I’m absolutely delighted for Natalie. This is testament to her hard work both on and off the mat.

“She probably didn’t start the year as she would have liked but since winning her second European medal back in April she’s gone from strength to strength, medalling at five events in a row.

“Physically she’s stronger now than she’s ever been and in terms of the mental and tactical side of her judo she’s getting better and better, as shown at the Worlds and Abu Dhabi where she beat two fighters that have got good records against her.”

Darren Warner, Welsh Judo Chief Executive, said:

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Natalie has achieved a No.1 World ranking. She strives to be better than yesterday every single day, so it’s no more than she deserves.

“It’s also a great reward for the staff of Welsh and British Judo who put so much in as a team. Her performances highlight just how successful a collaborative approach can be when everyone is pulling in the same direction, working towards the same goal.”