This category had the potential to showcase what it really means to be world class. Separated by just 60 points among thousands, the world number one is Deguchi and her domestic teammate, Klimkait is the world number two. They are both present in Abu Dhabi and are way ahead of the pack, on paper.

The next ten athletes in the category stretch the ranking down to number 29 and beyond that the gaps were even wider. We could have expected that the real battles would be to determine the winners of the bronze medals, that is if the top two can hold their nerve and their position.

At the top of the draw, double world champion Christa Deguchi seemed to exert almost no effort at all, sliding through the draw, as if in training, to reach the final. On the bottom half of the draw, Klimkait, with a more aggressive demeanour, also took complete control and cemented an all-Canadian final for the last contest of day one.

Klimkait on winning form.

The Canadians each beat German judoka in their respective semi-finals and so Germany can be pleased with their campaign, placing both their -57 kg competitors in medal contests. Ballhaus, on the bottom half, had a particularly strong day, passing Gneto (FRA) and Jessica Lima (BRA) convincingly to reach the guarantee of a final block appearance.

Seija Ballhaus in action in Abu Dhabi.

That same Jessica Lima was responsible for the departure of Daria Kurbonmamadova (AIN) who had launched herself into the day with the lost spectacular spinning uchi-mata against Great Britain’s Malin Wilson. With that precision, Kurbonmamadova laid claim to a rostrum finish but the seoi-nage choices of Klimkait and then Lima saw her unable to realise her goal, a visibly frustrating finish for her on a day when she looked in great shape.

The first bronze medal was fought for by Galitskaia (AIN) and Seija Ballhaus (GER), the former dealing with newly crowned junior world champion Toniolo (ITA) before losing to Starke (GER). Starke then lost to her Canadian adversary to drop into the other bronze medal contests against the aforementioned Jessica Lima.

The first 30 seconds of there Galitskaia-Ballhaus fight was quite something with the German hooking in for an uchi-mata, her opponent trying to pick up but Ballhaus finding the floor again to reapply the uchi-mata. It begin intensely and stayed intense throughout, both wanting to throw. At the 90s mark, Galitskaia initiated her own uchi-mata and it scored, forcing Ballhaus to go up another gear, impressively. However, her opponent was totally ready for the onslaught and countered for a second score and the medal.

Galitskaia (AIN) throws Ballhaus for bronze.

Jessica Lima was superb all day. Decisive throws and confident strategy put her on the podium and deservedly so. She threw Starke for two waza-ari scores inside a minute and a half and was thrilled by her achievement.

A happy Jessica Lima (BRA).

The true finalé of the day commanded everyone’s gaze. Deguchi looked ahead of the curve with a powerful but scoreless osoto-gari attempt after 58 seconds but the gripping was complicated and forced both to make careful decisions, as we would expect. With one and a half minutes to go it was a shido apiece, no seoi able to penetrate Deguchi’s armour and no o-uchi-gari able to tip Klimkait off her feet. In an underwhelming but understandable conclusion Klimkait eventually topped the podium via penalties.

Klimkait takes the win.

Final (-57 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-57 kg)

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by H.E. Jabr Al Suwaidi, Minister of the State of UAE, and Mr Mohamed Jassem, board member of the UAE Judo Federation.
See also