Rivalry and friendship on the tatami in Nanjing
The women’s judo competition in Nanjing provided the sport with a great showcase, as each of the gold medallists secured victory in a different way. The individual competitions were followed up by an exciting new mixed international team event.
Cakmakli’s golden moment
The women’s judo competition at the Longjiang Gymnasium kicked off with the -44kg weight category. Turkey’s Melisa Cakmakli came through a very tight semi-final, taking the win by a single yuko over Japan’s Honora Yamauchi. This earned her a place in the final against Leyla Aliyeva of Azerbaijan, who had defeated Anastasya Turcheva of Russia in the other semi-final.
In a very close final, neither of the two judokas managed to register a score during regular time and so the competition was decided by a golden score. After Aliyeva received a penalty, Cakmakli was awarded the victory.The bronze medals were awarded to Turcheva and Yamauchi, losers of the semi-finals.
Colman strikes for Brazil
Brazil’s Layana Colman took no prisoners in the -52kg category, showing plenty of positive aggression in each of her contests en route to the final. She was the stronger judoka from the start of the gold medal bout, which she won with a strangle-hold for ippon after just one minute and 22 seconds. Such was her strength that her opponent Betina Temelkova (BUL) immediately tapped the mat in a sign of submission.
“All the work I put in was worth it,” said a delighted Colman, after her victory.
The Brazilian’s coach Danusa Shira Bittencourt attributed her protégé’s triumph to her intensive preparation and a newly acquired understanding of her discipline. “There has been a lot of intensive preparation for this event over the last year,” said her coach. “She knows that it was worth it.”
In the -63kg category Hungary’s Szabina Gercsak almost managed to throw her opponent Adelina Dobre (ROU) three times, before finally winning by ippon. Gerczak pinned her opponent to the mat to take the win with just 50 seconds to go.
The Olympic spirit was in evidence in the women’s -78kg category fights, starting with the first bronze medal bout of the day. After Sara Rodriguez (ESP) beat Unelle Snyman (RSA) on penalties, the two embraced and the Spanish judoka then raised her opponent’s arms as if in victory.
“I did it because it was a way of showing how close the fight was and also to show how well she fought,” Rodriguez explained, adding that she and Snyman had become good friends, having trained and hung out together during the YOG.
Another set of friends faced off on the tatami in the final, as Brigita Matic of Croatia defeated Bosnia’s Aleksandra Samardzic. Afterwards, Matic admitted it was the first time she had fought a good friend in such a high-stakes contest.
“We’ve got to know each other really well over the years,” revealed the Croatian. “It’s hard to fight someone you’re friends with. But I’ve got the gold and it feels great!”
The fight came down to penalties as neither judoka was able to take a clear advantage. “I thought it would end up like that,” said Matic. “I knew neither of us would be able to take an ippon. I thought it would end up being that kind of fight.”
Meanwhile, Sara Rodriguez was joined by her namesake Elvismar Rodriguez of Venezuela on the third step of the podium.
Mixed international team event creates bonds across borders
The final day of judo competitions featured such unusual sights as a Serbian judoka shouting encouragement at his team-mate from Chinese Taipei, as their team fought for the gold medal in the mixed international team event.
The first ever gold medal in this event was won by Maria Siderot (POR), Adrian Gandia (PUR), Ayelen Elizeche (ARG), Sukhrob Tursunov (UZB), Lisa Mullenberg (NED), Mikhail Igolnikov (RUS) and Morgane Duchène (FRA).
When Wang Yu Jun of Chinese Taipei was thrown for ippon by Morgane Duchène, it was her team-mate Nermanja Majdov who came over to console her and celebrate their silver medal. “We don’t know each other but today we’re a family,” explained Majdov after the fight.
The whole team crowded around the tatami encouraging their team-mate; at one point she seemed to have thrown Duchène on her back but didn’t score an ippon. This only made Majdov redouble his efforts of encouragement as he tried to keep up the team’s morale.
“We’re on the same team today and we’re sharing the same silver medal,” declared Majdov.
In the most gripping encounter of the final, Lisa Mullenberg was trailing Ivana Sunjevic on points before she managed to throw her for ippon in the dying seconds.
“It was really special,” said Mullenberg, whose win came the day after her 18th birthday. “The scoreboard stopped at one second, it was cool to win like that.”
The two teams were tied before Mullenberg’s win took her team into the lead. “I really like this team,” Mullenberg revealed. “We don’t normally have competitions like this, but I think we should do it more often.”
Two more of the mixed international teams shared the bronze medal, as 29 judokas stood with medals round their necks and four Olympic flags flew during the victory ceremony.