Natalie Powell finished 2018 on a high as she defeated European Champion Madeleine Malonga (FRA) for bronze at the 2018 Guangzhou Masters in China on Sunday 16 December.

The end of year Masters event is an invite only competition that sees the top 16 judoka in every weight fighting.

As well as another opportunity for silverware, there are also big world ranking and qualification points on offer with up to 1800 for gold medallists.

Powell and Malonga have faced each other nine times going into today’s competition, with the British fighter holding a 5 – 4 lead in their head to head.

However, Malonga had won their most recent encounter at the European Championships in April this year and is one of the in-form judoka of 2018.

Powell though put in a superb tactical performance as she controlled the powerful Malonga and didn’t allow the French judoka to dominate.

Eventually with just over two minutes gone, Powell threw Malonga for ippon with a big ura-nage to secure the bronze and 900 World ranking and Olympic qualification points.

This was also Powell’s third Masters medal of her career, after silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016.

Speaking afterwards, Powell said: “This year has been a bit of a roller coaster, so I’m really happy it all came together today. I feel like my judo has improved a lot over the last 12 months and the results are coming together now. I can’t wait to get stuck into next year”

Powell started her day against Russia’s Anastasiya Dmitrieva (RUS) and it proved to be a tough and physical contest. The British fighter took the win in the dying seconds as she threw the Russian for waza-ari.

This setup a quarter-final against Japan’s current World Champion Shori Hamada. Powell had lost each of their three contests leading into today and once against Hamada proved too strong.

She threw Powell for waza-ari before going straight into osaekomi to win the contest.

This dropped the Irfon judoka into the repechage final where she faced the dangerous Kaliema Antomarchi of Cuba.

The Cuban judoka had won bronze at last year’s World Judo Championships, but Powell put in a strong and controlled performance.

The British fighter bided her time and took her chance to drive Antomarchi to ground for ippon, setting up her bronze medal contest against Malonga.

There was also a fifth place for Nekoda Smythe-Davis (-57kg) on day one of the Guangzhou Masters. The World silver medallist beat WRL 10 Helene Recevaux (FRA) and Olympic champion Rafaela Silva (BRA) but lost to Momo Tamaoki (JPN) in the bronze medal contest.

Chelsie Giles (-52kg) lost out to 2017 World silver medallist Natsumi Tsunoda (JPN) on her Masters debut, as the Japanese judoka showed her skill in newaza to hold down the Coventry judoka for ippon.

Alice Schlesinger (-63kg) lost to three-time and current World Champion Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA). The British judoka made a strong start, but the French judoka’s power and class told, resulting in three shidos against Schlesinger.

Lucy Renshall (-63kg) was making her first competition appearance since the European Championships, following a knee injury in the summer.

She had a tough first fight against Tina Trstenjak (SLO) with the Olympic champion winning thanks to a waza-ari score in the final minute.

Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) lost a cagey contest to Eric Takabatake (BRA). The fight was decided on shidos and McKenzie got on the wrong side of the referee to pick up three.

Sally Conway (-70kg) lost out to Spain Maria Bernabeu. Conway forced her opponent to pick up two early shidos but Bernabeu countered an attack by the British fighter for waza-ari. This score proved decisive and Conway exited in the second round.

Sarah Adlington (+78kg) took on WLR 2 and former Olympic Champion Idalys Ortiz (CUB). It was another contest decided on shidos with the Cuban coming out on top, three shidos to two.