Let’s first talk in summaries. 3 of the 4 top seeds made it to the quarter-finals and there one more dropped out of the race for gold, leaving two of them to fight in opposite semi-finals.

Renshall (GBR) was the first of the top ranked athletes to exit, beaten by Dena Pohl (GER) and the second round, thrown twice and not looking nearly as sharp as she did when winning Portugal in January. We know what she can do though and as a former world number one, we can be sure she will re-find her form when it really counts; this blip is not too big a worry. Pohl then moved through the group all the way to the semi-final.

Pohl (GER) losing the semi-final Tatsukawa (JPN).

The number two seed, Gili Sharir (ISR) was next to drop out of the running, but in the quarter-final, giving herself a second chance to fight for a medal, against a disappointed Oberan (CRO), which we will come back to shortly. Sharir beat home athlete Nurollaeva and Tang (CHN) before losing to Japan’s Nabekura.

The third seed of the category is Clarisse Agbegnenou who, having won gold in Paris, added 1000 points to her world ranking to guarantee seeding at all events in the run up to the Games and perhaps at the Olympics itself. It’s been presented almost as an instruction manual on how to reinstate ranking after a break, medal after medal, work on top of work. She won the last world championships but even that wasn’t enough in this competitive field to bring her into the top 8, Paris did that.

Agbegnenou (FRA) on her way to the final.

In Tashkent Agbegnenou passed Makretskaya (AIN) and Cabana Perez (ESP) to reach a quarter-final contest against the aforementioned Iva Oberan. The Croatian was ready for it, studied and on good form, neutralising most of what came at her. She gripped well, attacked a lot and resisted without fear. The contest went into golden score. There a momentarily slip in position and anticipation cost Oberan and the Olympic champion threw her for ippon. It was such a close contest for more than 5 minutes but a disappointed Oberan dropped to the repechage only to lose again to Gili Sharir, 4th seed, and finish her day in 7th place.

Agbegnenou (FRA) winning against Oberan (CRO).

Sharir lost her quarter-final to Nabekura, unseeded but dangerous, sending her to the semi-final against the French superstar. That semi-final was tense but in the end an armlock secured the win for Agbegnenou, just into golden score.

Agbegnenou wins her semi-final in ne-waza.

Nabekura found herself in a bronze medal contest, facing Dena Pohl, a German sitting at 50th on the World Ranking list and with no previous appearances in a World Judo Tour final block. Pohl arrived with a dominant top grip, Nabekuri significantly shorter and under a great deal of pressure but the Japanese judoka continued to attack from underneath. Normal time seemed to pass quickly with only a shido apiece being registered. The German, in golden score, tried to lock in a strong harai-goshi but Nabekura was ready and so it continued. As is customary, when the Japanese find themselves without space in tachi-waza, ne-waza becomes the goal and Nami Nabekura followed this trend perfectly, turning and holding Pohl for waza-ari and for a place on the podium.

Pohl (GER) vs Nabekura (JPN).

The second bronze medal would be contested by Sharir and Andreja Leski (SLO) after the latter, the 4th of the top seeds had a bye and 3 dominant wins but couldn’t pass Tatsukawa (JPN) who arrived from 54th in the rankings with only a 2023 gold from Linz visible on her World Judo Tour record.

A medal-winning moment for Leski (SLO).

Leski was certainly leading the contest, despite an even scoreboard, until 1:30 remained. At that point Sharir received a penalty for passivity and Leski took that as her cue, throwing in the next exchange, countering a non-committal tani-otoshi attempt, for waza-ari. She followed it up, with 2 seconds remaining, with a powerful koshi-guruma which Sharir was able to spin out of. It was too late though as the clock showed the end of the contest and Leski had stayed ahead throughout, more active and more willing to commit to her attacks.

Agbegnenou (FRA) happy with the day's work.

The final was therefore between familiar countries but only one familiar athlete. France was represented by Clarisse Agbegnenou and Japan by Momo Tatsukawa. Agbegnenou always looks confident, when it's hard, when she's blocked, always confident. With superior gripping and outstanding, fluid footwork, she made Tatsukawa work very hard indeed to even stay on her feet.

Tatsukawa continued to attack although they never looked sufficient to destablise Agbegnenou. Penalties came, equal at two apiece by 13 seconds into golden score but in the very next exchange, Tatsukawa again attacked and the French Olympic champion offered no hesitation at all, holding on to her arm and sinking into a perfect juji-gatame for ippon and another 1000 points. Someone wants top seeding at the Games...

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Shahrullo Mahmudov, Deputy Minister of Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and Dr Askhat Zhitkeyev, General Secretary of the Kazakhstan Judo Federation, Referee Director of the Judo Union of Asia and Olympic silver medallist

Final (-63 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-63 kg)

See also