The Serb therefore became the third athlete from her country to qualify for a final today in Tbilisi, after her victory in the semi-final ahead of Veronica Toniolo (ITA). It was a great overall performance for Serbia.
In the upper part of the draw, there was a pitched battle between the world number one and 2021 world champion, Jessica Klimkait (CAN) and Olympic champion Nora Gjakova (KOS). Since the Tokyo Games, the latter has shown some difficulty in regaining her best level. While her compatriot Distria Krasniqi grew in strength at each competition, Nora Gjakova struggled to find her bearings. Second in Abu Dhabi in 2022, then third in Baku in 2022, she even finished just off the podium at the Jerusalem Masters at the end of 2022. Worrying? Not really, she just had to find the sense of the fight again, with a golden bib on her back which can sometimes be heavy to carry. Today she carried it well.
We could therefore expect a great final for a category that had kept all its promises. What we witnessed actually was a power battle to impose one’s kumi-kata. This led the referee to give two shido apiece in normal time and then in golden score Gjakova received a third penalty, offering the gold medal to Marica Perisic, the second for Serbia today in Tbilisi.
With such a melting pot, the matches for the bronze medals therefore looked promising. For the gain of the first bronze medal we saw Jessica Lima (BRA) and Veronica Toniolo (ITA) facing each other and competing for twice the normal time, as it took Veronica Toniolo four minutes in golden score to counter-attack Lima for ippon. She could then jump into her coach's arms, who turns out to be her dad as well. There’s was a strong family business today in Tbilisi.
In the second match we witnessed what could have been the final of a major championship, since it was the 2016 Olympic champion and current world champion, Rafaela Silva (BRA), and the 2021 world champion, Klimkait who faced off to step on the podium. It was not a good day for the Canadian, who struggled to find the right pace to apply her trademark ippon-seoi-nage, but against Silva, she managed to stay focussed and more precise.
If the first attacks were not successful, they put some kind of pressure on the Brazilian champion, but it was eventually on the floor where Klimkait created the opportunity. She applied a clever turnover to pin Silva for ippon. Both athletes will go back home with some important information on what needs to be changed and corrected for next time.
Final (-57 kg)
Bronze Medal Fights (-57 kg)
Final Results (-57 kg)
More images of the Tbilisi Grand Slam 2023 - CLICK HERE