Nekoda Smythe-Davis won the biggest medal of her career to date as she won silver at the 2018 World Judo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan on Saturday 22 September.
The -57kg judoka from London backed up her bronze medal from last year’s World Judo Championships in Budapest with another world-class display judo.
The British judoka went in as fifth seed and had a bye into the second round where she faced up and coming Slovenian judoka Kaja Kajzer.
In a very controlled performance Smythe-Davis waited for her opportunity as the Slovenian held her own for large parts of the contest.
Eventually in the final minute, the British fighter dominated a long exchange and threw Kajzer for ippon with a big Osoto-makikomi.
Her third round opponent was WRL 14 Chen-Ling Lien (TPE). Smythe-Davis had beaten the Chinese Taipei fighter on her way to Worlds bronze last year.
Just like last year, this contest went into golden score with momentum swinging back and forth between the two fighters.
Both judoka went into golden score with two shidos to their name and the next few minutes were a decidedly tense affair.
Eventually Smythe-Davis got a run of attacks in and forced Lien to get a third shido and secure her place in the quarter-finals in Baku.
WRL 4 Theresa Stoll (GER) was next up and the German judoka had looked in impressive form so far.
However, Smythe-Davis never let her opponent settle as she soon took a waza-ari lead.
Less than a minute later the British fighter made sure of the result as she threw Stoll for ippon with a powerful Osoto-gari.
WRL 1 and defending World Champion Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia stood in her way in the semi-final and it was another tight and tense affair for all involved.
Once again, the contest went into golden score but this time Smythe-Davis was behind on shidos, two to one.
Golden score was back and forth again with both judoka enjoying periods of dominance.
With just over two minutes gone the British fighter spotted an opportunity and transitioned excellently into newaza and started to apply shime-waza.
Dorjsuren was able to get out of the initial strangle but Smythe-Davis recycled well and continued to apply pressure eventually resulting in the ippon win.
In reaching the final Smythe-Davis ensured she’d be the first British finalist at the World Judo Championships since Karina Bryant in 2009. It also gave her the chance to win the first gold for GB since Craig Fallon in 2005.
WRL 2 and last year’s World silver medallist Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN) went into the final holding a 2-0 record over Smythe-Davis and she continued that winning run.
The British judoka was not able to get into the fight and was caught twice for waza-ari in quick succession.
Speaking after picking up her medal, Smythe-Davis said:
“I knew that if I performed well today that I was definitely within a chance of winning a medal again like last year and I’m just so glad that everything just came together on the day.
“I even felt like my wins were more convincing this year than they were last year so for me it’s just like I’m stamping my authority down that I am here till the Tokyo Olympics and I’m looking to take a medal.”
British Judo Performance Director Nigel Donohue was full of praise for her performance:
“Few athletes medal back to back at World Championships level, so to win a second World medal and get to her first World final is an incredible achievement.
“We are confident she has the potential to be the best 57kg athlete in World Judo.
“For now though, she must enjoy this success, reflect on her achievement and know that we are all very proud of her both as an athlete and the person that she is.”
Tomorrow (Sunday 23 September) is a busy one for GB Judo with three fighters in action. Amy Livesey (-63kg), Alice Schlesinger (-63kg) and Stuart McWatt (-81kg) are all fighting.
Competition will start at 0700 UK time with live coverage via @BritishJudo on Twitter. There will be a full digital live stream via britishjudo.org.uk, live.ijf.org and Eurosport Player. There will also be broadcast coverage of the final block on the BBC Sport website and Red Button as well as Eurosport UK.