Powell’s Silver tops GB Medals in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Welsh Judoka Natalie Powell equalled her career best result by winning a silver medal, one of two British medals at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend (22/23 November).

The IJF World Tour event saw entries from some of the best in the world, all looking to gain valuable ranking points to get into prime position ahead of next year’s Olympic qualifying period.

Powell, who competes in the same -78kg as Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons, faced the same opponent in the final as Gibbons beat to win her Olympic medal, former World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist Audrey Tcheumeo. However the French athlete proved too strong with Tcheumeo throwing Powell for ippon inside a minute. That meant Powell had to settle for silver, equalling her best result achieved at the same event in 2012.

Powell had an impressive run to the final, beginning with an ippon win, holding down reigning Junior European Champion Madeleine Malonga of France.

That set up a quarter-final with Sunibala Huidrom. Powell made light work of the Indian athlete, throwing her for ippon.

The semi-final saw her pitted against Russia’s Anastasia Dmitrieva, who took silver in the Qingdao Grand Prix earlier in the month, along with a gold medal in the Almaty Grand Prix in September. Powell held her own in a tight contest and with the Welsh athlete edging through to the final by a yuko.

Commenting on the medal, Natalie said: “I’m pleased with my performance today, particularly as I beat the Russian that beat me earlier in the year.

“It was also good to get onto the mat with Tcheumeo as I have not fought her recently and she is well above me in the rankings.

“Overall, this is a good start to the Asian tour.”

There was also a medal for Edinburgh-based Sally Conway who claimed a bronze in the -70kg category.

Ranked 16 in the world, Conway started in typically strong fashion, scoring an early yuko over Russia’s Ekaterina Denisenkova and following it up with some strong work on the ground to hold her down for ippon inside a minute.

Conway then faced Giulia Cantoni of Italy. The scores stayed level through much of the contest but Conway picked up a shido in the final minute which proved to be the difference and dropped her into the repechage.

The repechage saw Sally go up against French athlete Fanny Posvite, where a throw for yuko was enough to book her a place in the bronze medal contest against Irina Gazieva. It was yet another tense contest with the Russian, and Conway was ahead by two shidos when a throw for waza-ari sealed her the bronze with four seconds to go.

After the competition Sally said: “It’s good to be back fighting at this level again and my performance was OK, especially as I’ve not competed on the tour since Russia in June.

“There’s a few things to change before Japan but I feel strong and ready for the challenge of the next two weeks.”

Two other GB athletes narrowly missed out on medals taking fifth place, adding to yesterday’s fifth from Kimberley Renicks and sevenths from Nathon Burns, Patrick Dawson and Connie Ramsay.

Tom Reed beat this year’s Paris Grand Slam winner Yakho Imamov on his way to the -81kg semi-final but lost to German Sven Maresch being thrown for ippon in the last minute whilst fighting back from a shido down. He then succumbed to twice European Champion Sirazhudin Magomedov, being thrown for waza-ari early in the contest before later being thrown by the Russian for ippon.

Sarah Adlington (+78kg) also took fifth. She lost her opening contest over Algeria’s Sonia Asselah by ippon before edging a narrow victory by shidos over Germany’s Jasmin Kuelbs. However, European silver medallist Emilie Andeol of France proved too strong, throwing Adlington for ippon to claim bronze.

Reflecting on the squad’s performances, Women’s Olympic Coach Kate Howey said: “Natalie is getting stronger with every performance and beat the Russian that beat her back in March, so that was a good win against a player ranked above her in the world ranking list.

“It’s good to have Sally back at this level and she put in a solid performance to take bronze and those important world ranking points to move her up to 11th.

“Both of them have things to work on to improve over the next two weeks but it is a good start for both of them on the tour.”

Also in action for GB were Ben Fletcher (-100kg) who beat Italy’s Vincenzo D’arco in his first contest before being held down by European bronze medallist Cyrille Maret. His sister Megan (-70kg) was strangled for ippon by Irina Gazieva in her first contest. James Austin and Matt Purssey also suffered first round exits, both thrown for ippon after being waza-ari down, Olympian Austin by ten-time world tour medallist Ramziddin Sayidov of Uzbekistan and Purssey to home fighter Ivan Remarenco.

A smaller squad now continue their Asian tour travelling to Japan for next week’s Tokyo Grand Slam and then continuing onto Jeju, Korea.

Image courtesy of Jack Willingham – Fighting Films