It was symbolic of the old generation of judoka against the new one; not old actually, but older, though still present and not keen on giving up their position. Double world champion, Matic still has the desire to shine at the highest level. On the other side there was the Spaniard, three times world champion, but in cadets and juniors, definitely one of the rising stars of the category, still looking for the great consecration in seniors. She wants to take the position of her prestigious elders. In the quarter-final, Ai Tsunoda Roustant, out-powered by Marie-Eve Gahie (FRA), found the resources to gain a tactical win in golden score. Against Matic, as both were attacking non-stop, she was the one who was the most dangerous and in the end entered the final.
Golden score can be long sometimes and this one made no exception, but it was exciting, thrilling, incredibly attractive. Thanks to both judoka, they offered us an amazing show.
If Barbara Matic would have won, the -70kg could again have been a 100% Croatian story and that's for sure one of the reasons why she really wanted to win against Ai Tsunoda Roustant. On the other half of the draw, it was her teammate Lara Cvjetko who had the chance to go to the final and next year only one of the two will compete at all at Paris 2024. Unfortunately for Cvjetko, she was defeated in Baku by Elisavet Teltsidou (GRE) who has been a regular at the top level for a while now. -70kg has become a very unpredicatable category.
We could wonder if Tsunoda Roustant would be capable of imposing again a strong rhythm and she was, but in the process, she launched an attack too lightly and was counter-attacked by Teltsidou with a massive ura-nage. Tsunoda was on her opponent the whole match, if her body was functioning perfectly showing an amazing cardio capacity, she maybe lacked a bit of mental presence and she eventually bowed out to Elisavet Teltsidou, who confirms her incredible consistency at this level. Teltsidou in gold medal position, Ai Tsunoda Roustant keeps learning.
The first bronze medal contest opposed Marie Eve Gahie (FRA) and Lara Cvjetko (CRO). The French world champion started the bronze medal contest on the same page as her repechage bout, which was only 4 seconds long. After a handful of seconds, she already had one waza-ari up on the scoreboard, but Lara Cvjetko came back with a clever little ashi-waza during a counter-attack that was awarded a waza-ari. Gahie, who has an amazing throwing capacity, can also be thrown anytime, but not this time. After her first successful tani-otoshi, she again scored with the same technique, but this time for a clear ippon. Despite a small mistake during the day that cost her the gold medal, it was a good day at the office for Marie-Eve Gahie.
The second bronze medal contest saw Miriam Butkereit (GER) and Barbara Matic (CRO) face each other. Would Matic have recovered from her marathon in the semi-final? It seemed that it was the case as she scored first with an o-uchi-gari. She then did everything she needed to keep that result and win the bronze medal. Gold or silver would have been better of course, but after such a day, this result is more than deserved. Congratulations champion!