Natalie Powell produced one of the performances of her career to win bronze at the 2017 World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Friday 1 September.
Powell was outstanding in the bronze medal contest against former World champion Marhinde Verkerk. The British judoka put the pressure on throughout the contest and forced Verkerk to pick up two shidos for a false attack and stepping out of the area.
Powell continued to put the pressure on and with just a minute to go she threw Verkerk for ippon to the delight of the GB support, and herself.
In doing so she became the first Welsh judoka to win a World Championships medal and meant that it was the first time since 2007 that Great Britain have won two medals at a World Judo Championships.
Speaking afterwards she said:
“I’m just really happy and glad that all the work I’ve put in has finally paid off and got a medal at the end of the day. It’s just kind of a relief as well. You put all the effort in and for it to pay off in the end of the day is nice.
“I think Rio really helped me today. At the start of the day I didn’t feel sharp and I had to really dig in for a lot of the fights and I had to go to a place mentally that I learned to do last cycle which before that I wouldn’t have been able to do.”
The Irfon judoka started her day against China’s Kaili Zhang with a single waza-ari proving enough against an awkward opponent.
Her round of 16 contest against Canada’s Ana Laura Portuondo Isisa proved to be a real tussle. The young Canadian, a former Junior World medallist, was a tough opponent and was close to scoring on a number of occasions.
A late waza-ari to Powell looked to have won her the contest but a waza-ari score was also given to Isisa from a previous exchange. This meant the contest went into golden score.
With Powell looking the fitter of the two judoka, Isisa looked to finish the contest quickly but Powell countered for waza-ari to move into the quarter-finals.
She took on Japan’s Ruika Sato, the sixth seed, and it was a more tactical contest with neither judoka able to get ahead on the scoreboard. Powell picked up a shido for passivity but the contest went into golden score.
Sato caught Powell with a nice throw for ippon which dropped the British judoka into the repechage final. There she received a walkover as two-time Olympic medallist Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) was unable to compete due to a knee injury picked up earlier in the day.
Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sally Conway went in unseeded at -70kg but looked good from the start. She proved too strong and experienced for European Under-23 bronze medallist Elisavet Teltsidou (GRE).
A lovely bit of ashi-waza threw Teltsidou for waza-ari in the opening 30 seconds. Conway continued to pressurise her younger opponent and in the final minute she put her renowned newaza skills into action to turn Teltsidou for osaekomi.
In the second round she took on World No.4 and current European Champion Sanne Van Dijke (NED) and produced one of the individual performances of the day. Conway completely dominated her opponent with Van Dijke struggling to get any attacks in.
With 90 seconds left Conway finally took the lead as she threw Van Dijke for waza-ari. The Dutch judoka tried to respond but Conway threw her for waza-ari once again and transitioned straight into osaekomi to finish the contest.
Unfortunately, round of 16 opponent Maria Perez was in inspired form and she threw Conway for ippon inside the opening minute. Perez went onto pick up silver.
Gemma Howell was also in action at -70kg with a bye into the second round. She took on North Korea’s Jong Hyang Kim in a very uneventful contest. Kim was unable to get into the fight and soon picked up two shidos for failing to grip up with Howell.
A third and final shido followed soon after for pushing down on the British judoka which secured Howell a place in the round of 16. Seventh seed Maria Portela (BRA) was next up in a tactical, cagey contest.
Howell was positive throughout but was unable to score and had very few opportunities on the ground. Both judoka picked up two shidos in regular time with the contest going into golden score.
Golden score lasted over three minutes with both judoka doing any positive judo to stay on the right side of the referee. Portela though was finally able to take advantage of strong grip and threw Howell for waza-ari.
Max Stewart (-90kg) made his debut today but was unable to get past his first opponent after receiving a bye in the second round. 2015 Paris Grand Slam champion at -81kg Shakhzodbek Sabirov (UZB) went ahead by waza-ari with a minute to go. Stewart was unable to get the score back and went out in the second round.
Tomorrow, Saturday 2 September, is the last day of individual competition and Ben Fletcher (-100kg) will be in action taking on Luciano Correa (BRA) in the first round.
Competition starts at 0900 UK time (1000 Local) with live coverage via britishjudo.org.uk and live.ijf.org. Follow @BritishJudo on Twitter for all the build-up and live updates