A gold and bronze medal on the final day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam ensured GB Judo finished in 2nd place in the overall medal table with seven medals, a record for GB Judo at a Grand Slam event.
Both medals came in the -78kg category as Emma Reid won her first Grand Slam medal, whilst Natalie Powell returned to a Grand Slam podium, after last picking up a silver medal at the Brasilia Grand Slam in 2019.
Reid entered Abu Dhabi in fine form, having medalled at all but one of her six competitions this year. Following her recent bronze medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix, Reid has climbed to 35th in the IJF world rankings.
Reid, seeded 6th, faced 3rd seed and Paris Grand Slam bronze and Baku Grand Slam silver medallist Inbar Lanir (ISR). Despite the 23 world ranking places between the two fighters, it was Reid who exploded out of the blocks and threw her opponent with one of the throws of the weekend to book her place in the semi-finals inside the opening 30 seconds of the contest.
The semi-final was another tough contest with 2nd seed Anastasiya Turchyn (UKR) standing between Reid and her first Grand Slam final.
The Ukrainian dominated the early exchanges, but a great change of direction by Reid registered a waza-ari score early on. Turchyn fought hard to even the score, but Reid’s defences stood tall to fend off an array of attacks to book her place in the Final.
The Final was a tense affair against Alina Boehm (GER), who had eliminated top seed Aleksandra Babintseva (RUS) at the quarter-final stage of the competition.
As the contest entered Golden Score Reid picked up a second shido; knowing another mistake would cost her the gold medal she had to attack. Boehm sensed this so also piled on the pressure, launching an attack, Reid was able to change direction and throw her opponent for an ippon score to win gold in her first Grand Slam final.
Speaking after the competition Reid said: “I am delighted to win my first Grand Slam medal here in Abu Dhabi. Firstly, to make the final was amazing, but to then go and win gold..!
“Watching my team-mates perform so well over the past few days really inspired me to come out today and perform to the best of my ability.
“I have been in great form this year, I have worked really hard in training recently, and for the past 18 months throughout lockdown, it has really given me a better focus on my strategy and plan. Today I stuck to the plan and it is great to round off the season on top of the podium.”
Also competing in the -78kg category was Powell who returned to competition at the Paris Grand Slam, where she finished 7th, following the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Entering as 4th seed, Powell was narrowly defeated by Zagreb Grand Prix silver medallist Patricuse Brolih (SLO) in the quarter-finals.
A bye in the Repechage due to injury to top seed Babintseva meant Powell progressed to the bronze medal contest to face Turchyn. Powell drew on all her experience to work against a defensive left arm, over the top, by Turchyn to change direction and expose the weak side and throw her opponent for an ippon score and claim the bronze medal.
Jamal Petgrave, who recently won gold at the Dubrovnik European Cup, was defeated in Golden Score of his opening -90kg contest by 2nd seeded fighter and 2x Asian Champion Komronshokh Ustopiriyon (TJK).