Nekoda Davis takes her first Grand Prix medal in Kazakhstan

Budding Olympian Nekoda Davis took her first Grand Prix bronze medal today (Friday 10 October) in Astana and this, her career best to date, is a result that sets her firmly on the path to Rio, writes Donna Richardson.

The 21-year old, originally from Ealing, trains full-time at the British Judo Centre of Excellence at Walsall and became -57kg Commonwealth Champion earlier this year. Off the back of this she won the Grand Prix bronze in style in Kazakhstan and scooped 120 points towards Olympic qualification.

“I am so chuffed with myself today and my performance,” said Nekoda.

“Last week I was devastated at missing out at a shot for a medal at the GB European Open, this weekend is the complete opposite. I feel terrific and that is the sometimes the harsh beauty of judo. It has the ability to make you or break you.

“I felt close to reaching the final today. I am just so happy that some of the things I have been working on back at training in Walsall have been coming through. I hope to just stay on this path to Rio and to be on plenty more podiums. Good luck to all my team-mates fighting tomorrow.”

On her way to bronze she showed Olympic promise in beating the Beijing Olympic Champion and fifth place London 2012 contestant Guilia Quintaville in the quarter finals by waza-ari, showing what Olympian Euan Burton, her coach at the event, described as “the promise to grace many a world class podium in the future.”

In fact it was only one loss against Sabina Filzmoser of Austria in the semi-final that stood in her way of gold or silver. Earlier she had started well with an ippon against Evelyne Tschopp of Switzerland and won on penalties against Shushana Hevondian of Ukraine. She took the bronze from Stefanie Tremblay in the same fashion that she started with another ippon.

Burton said: “Nekoda was fantastic today, showing a combination of composure and dynamic throwing ability that will see her standing on many a world class podium in the future. Her only loss of the day was a final second defeat in the semi final to Filmoser where again she was attempting to win the fight by attacking judo. She will no doubt be thrilled with her points and the fact she beat an Olympic champion along the way. She has led the way on day one of the event and I am sure that the rest of the team will want to follow her onto the podium on days two and three.”

Centre of Excellence coach Dennis Stewart said: “I am delighted she has won this medal after her hard work and training at the centre of excellence over the past year.”

Meanwhile, her fiance’ Lewis Keeble suffered an early exit in his comeback competition. He started well with an ippon but then lost the next match. He will have another chance for a medal in Tashkent, Uzbekhistan.

Words by Donna Richardson.