Let’s begin with the biggest surprise of the day, Vanessa Chala of Ecuador. At 34 years old, she is pushing the envelope, working to the very last minute in an attempt to make it to a second Games. She qualified through the continental quota system in Tokyo 3 years ago.

Ahead of the Qasaqstan Barysy Grand Slam 2024, Chala was ranked 40th on the Olympic list, outside continental quota and had yet to record a top 8 finish on the World Judo Tour in this cycle. However, in Astana, something clicked and she found her rhythm, throwing for ippon in round one against Zhanibekova (KAZ) and the crowd!

Vanessa Chala (ECU).

Her next rival was British world medallist Natalie Powell and an osae-komi-waza did the job to propel her into the quarter-final and a guaranteed top 8 finish. Emma Reid (GBR) awaited her, the 4th seed of the event, riding the wave after winning bronze in Dushanbe a week ago. Reid was on good form.

Chala’s excellent footwork put paid to any advancement from Reid, throwing her with two very well placed sasae combinations.

Chala (ECU) threw Reid (GBR) twice.

Chala tries the same tactics against world silver medallist Ma (CHN) but the Chinese judoka was ready and countered immediately to send the Ecuadorian away from the final. A place in the final block for Chala is a huge achievement and will certainly rocket her above Preciado, her teammate, at -66 kg, who is in the continental quota zone currently.

Chala (ECU) vs Ma (CHN).

On the bottom half of the draw the third of the 3 world class Germans was in action. Anna Monta Olek is 13th in the world, is in direct Games qualification and has won two WJT golds this year but she will not go to the Games as even a world championship gold wouldn’t leapfrog her over Wagner or Boehm. However, she understands there is also a long game at hand and she continue to work and make progress, laying her foundations for he LA cycle. She’s 21 and has incredibly strong judo which she used to beat Ikeda (JPN), Tatarchenko (AIN) and Pacut-Kloczko (POL) en route to the final.

Anna Monta Olek (GER).

The first bronze medal contest was between Emma Reid (GBR) and Beata Pacut-Kloczko (POL). Reid marked the board first with an ashi-waza for waza-ari, almost converting it on the ground. She was then under heavy fire from the Polish judoka's left-handed uchi-mata and ashi-waza attempts. She withstood the barrage though and took her second bronze medal in two weeks.

Reid (GBR) vs Pacut-Kloczko (POL).

The second bronze medal contest was fought by Nadezha Tatarchenko (AIN) and Vanessa Chala (ECU). It was an all action affair with both trying to throw but Tatarchenko threatened to employ a dangerous counter and Chala did not heed the warning. She was eventually thrown sending the bronze medal home with Tatarchenko.

In the final Olek looked the stronger, more comfortable against any grip or attack delivered by Ma but just into golden score, while preparing an unorthodx sumi-gaeshi, she was thrown with a nifty ko-soto-gake for ippon. Gold for Ma and silver for Olek.

Ma (CHN) won gold.

Final (-78 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-78 kg)

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Mohammed Meridja, IJF Education & Coaching Director, and Mr Yerlan Serikzhanov, world silver medallist.
See also