History was made at the Palace of Sport on the second day of the World Judo Masters tournament as Natalie Powell strove through a tough draw to book her spot in the final of the -78kg category. Powell defeated Olympic bronze medalist to claim a prestigious and precious silver medal.
Baku Grand Slam winner (2015), Sally Conway was competing amongst the elite players of the -70kg where the draw threw her first obstacle to be the Asian Champion (2015) and Samsung Grand Prix (2015) bronze medalist, Tsend Ayush (MGL). Conway put her Mongolian opponent under pressure and as the results of her dominant judo, two penalties were on display of the opposite side. It was around half-time when Tsend Ayush decided to dive in for a right sided attack scoring yuko against the British fighter. As an answer to that, Conway step up her game to throw a dubious yuko wroth of kouchi-gari attack. The score wasn’t considered which led the Mongolian fighter to book her spot for the second round.
Few contest later, Natalie Powell was up on stage facing African Championships silver medalist (2015), Sarah Myriam Mazouz (GAB) in the -78kg category. Leaving no space for her opponent first she scored a waza-ari before adding a yuko and an ippon score to end the contest. London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) was waiting for Powell in the quarter-finals. The last two match up ended with French victory, however, today the table turned around. Two to one shidos in favour of Powell was just the beginning. The British fighter did not stop there and attacked her opponent again to raise up the pressure which ended up causing an error for Tcheumeo as she made a forbidden movement and grabbed the leg.
The semi-final brought actions against Marhinde Verkerk (NED), where once more Powell dominated to than make history for British Judo and became the first ever finalist at a World Judo Masters tournament. In the final contest, London 2012 Olympic Champion, Kayla Harrison (USA) was determined to keep her most favoured place on the podium. Three years ago was the first and only time these two athletes had to face each other where Harrison come out on top. Today’s final brought the opportunity for Powell to take revenge. The Wales born judoka was showing an incredible performance throughout the day including the final contest where both players were putting in dangerous attacks. Powell with her left, whilst Harrison with her right sided o-goshi frightened each other. At the end, Powell was the one to get caught.
Natalie Powell expressed her feelings after the final contest: “I am really happy to get a medal and beat a few girls that I have never beaten before. I am disappointed with the final as I stayed too high on the o-goshi but this is more points towards Rio qualification.”
“I am very happy with Natalie’s performance today, she got stuck in to every fight with high intensity and it paid off. Her work rate was not matched by her opponents. The final was a little disappointing but there are things for Natalie to work on for the next time she fights Harrison. More importantly Nat has filled a 6th spot on her qualification for Rio with 420 points and this is what competitions are about” – concluded GB elite performance coach, Kate Howey.
No time to rest for our elite team as they heading out to Mongolia for two weeks training camp in preparation to the first European Games which will be held in Baku, Azerbaijian towards the end of June.
Looking further into the qualification towards the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, British Judo has a strong team on offer. Currently, there are six athletes qualified directly for the next Summer Games. With only being half-way through the qualification, the elite team yet to have the opportunity to earn plenty of more points to top up our Rio Olympic crew.