Natalie Powell won the fifth Grand Slam medal of her career when she took home silver in Abu Dhabi on Monday 29 October.
Powell won -78kg gold in Abu Dhabi last year but was going into this year’s competition off the back of a couple of early exits at the World Judo Championships and Cancun Grand Prix.
The British judoka took on WRL 1 Guusje Steenhuis (NED) in the final with Powell having beaten the Dutch fighter on her way to gold at last year’s event.
It was a tight and cagey contest with neither judoka able to dominate. The British fighter picked up a shido for passivity but had more than held her own against her higher-ranked opponent
With just over a minute left Steenhuis took a dominant grip and threw Powell for waza-ari. Powell continued to press hard but couldn’t get a score back despite forcing a shido on the Dutch fighter.
Speaking afterwards Powell said:
“I am pleased with my performance today. I was able to correct a few points from the last few competitions and bring it all together to get back on the podium. As always, I’ve come away with lots to work on, and am looking forward to the next few months preparing for the Masters.”
Powell had started her day against Polish judoka Beata Pacut. Powell had lost to Pacut last time out at the Cancun Grand Prix.
She made no mistake this time as she waited for an opportunity to throw her opponent for ippon with Ashi-Guruma.
Her semi-final saw her take on WRL 9 Karen Stevenson. These two had already fought twice this year with the record standing at 1 – 1.
Stevenson came close to scoring on a few occasions with Powell eventually picking up a shido for passivity.
With just under a minute and a half left Powell got into clinch with Stevenson and showed good determination to throw the Dutch fighter for ippon with Ouchi Gari.
Kate Howey MBE, GB Head Coach, said: “Natalie’s performance today was much better than Cancun as she has corrected some minor points from that competition. It is good for Natalie’s confidence to gain ranking points to help towards qualifying for the Olympics in Tokyo.”
Powell’s silver meant that GB Judo finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam with two medals following Chelsie Giles’s bronze from Saturday.
Giles beat Israel’s WRL 18 for bronze, scoring waza-ari in the last thirty seconds of their contest.
At -90kg Max Stewart reached the third round, losing on shidos to WRL 2 Aleksandar Kukolj (SRB). The Serbian judoka’s greater attacking intensity resulted in three shidos for the British fighter in normal time.
Stewart had started his day with a solid win over Faruch Bulekulov (KGZ). The Kyrgyzstan judoka came out on the offensive, but Stewart soon forced his opponent into picking up two shidos.
He then took advantage of a poor drop attack to score waza-ari. Bulekulov continued to press for another score but the British judoka threw him for a second waza-ari using sumi-gaeshi.