There are top seeds and then there are the anomalies. It’s like that in several categories. At -63 kg, who would you have predicted for gold?
Joanne Van Lieshout (NED).

The top seeds were Beauchemin-Pinard (CAN), Katharina Haecker (AUS), Laura Fazliu (KOS) and Gili Sharir (ISR), in that order. Of those 4, only two made it to a medal contest, the same bronze medal contest and so, therefore, the day will conclude with only one of the top 4 on the podium.

Haecker (AUS) recorded the fastest throw of the day in the preliminaries; incredible speed and skill. She looked ready to progress, perhaps all the way

With 6-time world champion Agbegnenou (FRA) seeded 5th and in the same quarter as the number one, Beauchemin-Pinard, and with world champion Horikawa (JPN) floating about unseeded, there was no telling how things would pan out.

In the top quarter, the Canadian held her line beating recently crowned European champion Zachova (CZE) first before taking out Timo (POR) too. She was then into the quarter-final against Clarisse Agbegnenou who had just thrown and held Horikawa for ippon. That fight went in favour of the Beauchemin-Pinard, a waza-ari being scored from a sumi-gaeshi with a minute to go. Not many could survive that last minute under the pressure than rained down from Clarisse but the Canadian did and was visibly elated.

Beauchemin-Pinard's (CAN) winning smile after the quarter-final.

In pool B Sharir didn’t make it to round three, Van Lieshout (NED) coming through after countering Oberan (CRO) in their quarter-final, she finished the job on the ground with two seconds to spare.

Haecker also reached her quarter-final but came unstuck against a new version of Angelika Szymanska (POL), her ne-waza proving to be the vehicle for success. A hold in her first contest, a shime-waza in the second and an armlock in the round of 16. Haecker suffered too and the Polish judoka found herself in the semi-final against last year’ silver medallist, Andreja Leski (SLO).

In the semi-final Leski didn’t have the chance to offer her best judo as Szymanska was so thorough with her transition that ever exchange was met with a potential contest-finisher in ne-waza. At the halfway point, Szymanska paved her route to the win and arm-locked the Slovenian convincingly. This is Szymanska’s first world medal regardless of the final result. She placed 5th in Tashkent in 2022.

Szymanska's (POL) phenomenal transition.

The other semi-final saw another surprise, Van Lieshout holding the number one seed Beauchemin-Pinard for ippon. The 21 year old Dutch fighter won bronze in Doha a year ago and now had secured a finish at least one level higher.

Van Lieshout (NED) takes out the number one seed.

The first bronze medal was fought for between the 2023 world championship finalists, Agbegnenou and Leski and it was all-go from the beginning. Eventually the medal, Clarisse’s 9th at senior world level, was won on penalties, despite the intensity of the contest.

Agbegnenou (FRA) vs Leski (SLO).
Only respect.

The second bronze medal of the category was disputed by Laura Fazliu and Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard, the latter riding high having beaten the Queen of the category. However, that was short-lived as Fazliu, always focused and always powerful, threw with an o-uchi-gaeshi for waza-ari and held that scoreline until the clock ran out.

Laura Fazliu's (KOS) counter.

The final then commenced, offering a brand new world champion no matter the winner. In the head-to-head battle, Van Lieshout is dominant, 3-0 up.

Van Lieshout (NED) vs Szymanska (POL).

This was an incredible ne-waza clash to begin with, both proficient in transition, searching for kansetsu-waza, shime-waza and holds. In the end though it was a counter to an uchi-mata from Szymanska that finished the contest, sending a waza-ari to the Dutch competitor only half a minute before the end. The Netherlands have their first world champion for the women’s team since 2009.

The counter.
Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Dr Balazs Fürjes, IOC Member, and Ms Amal Abushallakh, General Treasurer of the Judo Union of Asia and board member of the UAE National Olympic Committee
See also