It seems as if the whole world is holding their breath waiting for the Judo Canada selection for the Olympic Games. At each event the saga find a new face and a new phase and the predictions swing from one to the other.

Deguchi has been ahead for a long time now and she is the current world champion but Klimkait wins a medal at every appearance while Deguchi occasionally faulters in the early rounds. The World Ranking Lists shows maximum points over and over again but the full results list shows things more clearly. This race will be a photo finish because despite a big lead for Deguchi, they remain the number one and two in the category and both have summited world judo. Klimkait has proven she can medal at the Games too, something the Canadian selectors may also consider.

Deguchi (CAN) vs Yildiz (TUR).

In Kazakhstan only Deguchi is present and a challenge to her almost perfect supremacy was drawn on her side of the sheet. Funakubo, Japan’s Olympic representative this summer, awaited a semi-final meeting. An unpredictable outcome but an understandable one came in the form of a very tactical win for he Canadian. This was perhaps not the most spectacular fight of the day but having thrown her previous opponents with a variety of techniques, a win by shido was not a problem and perhaps was the safest choice. Funakubo was certainly not satisfied with her own performance and would have to search for new energy for the final block at the end of the day. Deguchi’s move into the final was an important step in her campaign, further evidence of her capability against the best.

Deguchi (CAN) vs Funakubo (JPN).

In pool B, 4 of the 6 world medallists of the category gathered for a royal rumble but in the end only Funakubo made it out to have the opportunity of winning a medal. Behind her, Smythe-Davis (GBR) fell in round two to Nelson-Levy (ISR) while both Monteiro (POR) and Kowalczyk (POL) were levelled by 36 year old Chen-Ling Lien (TPE).

Lien (TPE) thrrew Monteiro (POR).

Lien has always mingled with the best, since her world championship debut way back in 2007. She’s been a continental medallist 9 times since 2010, has medalled in Tokyo twice and placed 5th in one of her two Olympic appearances. At first glance her CV may not be at the very top of the pile but under scrutiny it is impressive and she should never be discounted. In Kazakhstan she asserted herself and stood to her full height against formidable opposition. A loss against Funakubo dropped her into the repechage and there she lost again, to Turkmenistan’s dangerous teenager, Maysa Pardayeva.

Cysique (FRA), at the top of the bottom half, threw her first three opponents to reach a semi-final against Olympic and double world champion Rafaela Silva (BRA). There the might of the Brazilian, the phenomenal reaction speed she continues to display, brought her a waza-ari with o-uchi-gaeshi sending France’s Olympic silver medallist into a bronze medal contest against Pardayeva.

Cysique (FRA) vs Silva (BRA).

Whether attacking with her feet or hips, Cysique only ever gives 100% commitment. An ashi-waza offered her a first waza-ari in the opening exchange. It was followed by a flurry of movement from both, a yo-yo of attack and defence but eventually the French Olympic medallist threw again, this time with an ashi-guruma, to finish the contest.

Cysique (FRA) offered no respite to Pardayeva (TKM).

The second bronze medal would be assigned to Aminova (UZB) or Funakubo (JPN). After 4 minutes of a rather sedate contest the buzzer sounded the beginning of extra time. Two penalties apiece left no room for error for either. The third penalty came fairly fast, aimed at the Uzbek competitor, sending the hardware home to Japan with Funakubo, her 9th grand slam medal.

Funakubo (JPN) ensures a podium finish.

Having had arguably the best four athletes of the category fight it out in the semi-finals, it was ultimately a PanAmerican rematch between Deguchi and Silva that would conclude day one in Astana. So many gold medals have been won by each of them at the highest level and they fought accordingly, a contest between champions with awareness, strategy and intellignece shouting loudly from the centre of the tatami. Penalties decided it but this only reflects how close it was, not how fascinating it was. Christa Deguchi takes an important gold while Silva adds to her silverware this time round.

Two big champions face-off in the -57 kg final.

Christa acknowledged the importance of her win, “If I didn’t win the gold today I couldn’t afford to have more than 1 round between us, me and Jessica, at the end of the day at the worlds, so it was very important in terms of our selection criteria for the Olympic Games.”

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Armen Bagdasarov, IJF Head Referee Director, and Mr Yerzhan Zaidinov, Vice President of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation.

Final (-57 kg)

See also