Twelve elite British judoka self-funded their journey to the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent to compete for Olympic qualification points ahead of the upcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Games. By the end of day three of the Tashkent Grand Prix, British judoka achieved a gold, bronze and a fifth place.
The first day came to an early end with both Kimberley RENICKS (-48kg) and Kelly EDWARDS (-52kg) missing out on reaching the quarter-final stage. The second day, however, looked a lot brighter with Alice SCHLESINGER (-63kg) earning a spot in the final-block and the opportunity to fight for bronze. Schlesinger won her first two contests against both Janine NAKAO (USA) and Helene WEZEU-DOMBEU (CMR). In the semi-finals, Edwige GWEND (ITA) defeated the British fighter and went on to claim gold in the category.
The bronze match-up saw Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist (2015), Schlesinger vs SZABO Franciska (HUN). A single penalty was the difference and the British judoka missed out on the podium place.
Schlesinger expressed her feelings regarding her overall performance: “It wasn’t my best performance. But I learned a lot from it. Now I am looking forward for the next competition and will work on my mistakes.”
Day three of the event turned all the tears into joy with Natalie POWELL winning her second Grand Prix gold medal whilst Gemma GIBBONS claiming bronze, both in the -78kg category. Gibbons won her opening contest against Alena KACHOROVSKAYA (RUS) and secured her spot in the quarter-finals where she met Madeleine MALONGA (FRA) who pulled out an Ippon worth of an attack and set Gibbons back to the repechage stage, where she defeated Yahima RAMIREZ (POR). The bronze-battle was against Assunta GALEONE (ITA), where the London Olympic silver medallist, Gibbons, scored Ippon in the last five seconds of the medal contests. “Although I didn’t fight my best today I am happy with my result. It is my second time stepping onto the podium at Grand Prix level since last year and my injury so its another step in the right direction”, said Gibbons after the bronze medal contest.
Golden girl of the weekend, Powell, also started her day against Russian opponent, namely, Vera MOSKALYUK, where a minute and a half into the fight, Powell scored or Ippon. In the quarter-finals, a yuko difference against Marta TORT MERINO (ESP) helped the British fighter to book a spot in the semis where she met Assunta GALEONE (ITA). Two to one yuko in favour of Powell was the final display when the buzzer gone off which meant a definite medal winning performance from Powell.
In the final, she was facing Madeleine MALONGA (FRA), who had defeated Gibbons at the earlier stages. It was time for revenge from the British team, however the French fighter opened the final contest with a waza-ari score, which than was brought back by a stunning Ippon from Powell. After winning the Astana Grand Prix last year, this was the second Grand Prix golden performance from Natalie Powell who now set herself to be in WRL7 positon. “I am really pleased to win this weekend. Just trying to get as many points as possible before Rio, with the aim to be seeded in the top four at the Games. There are four competitions left this year so looking to get as many points as I can before the year ends which would allow me to concentrate on training and the majors at the beginning of the next year”, Powell concluded after the final.
The next Olympic qualifying tournament will take place in a week time where the women and the men competition will be split into two locations. Women European Open will take place in Lisbon whilst the MEN EUROPEAN OPEN IN GLASGOW. Make sure you book your TICKETS via https://www.britishjudo.org.uk/glasgow2015.
Picture: Gabriela Sabau – IJF Photgrapher