Portugal’s Catarina Costa likes to travel to Abu Dhabi, it’s among her favourite destinations on the World Judo Tour. From 5 appearances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam she has never finished outside the top 8 and has bronze medals from 2019 and 2021.
Bronze in Abu Dhabi in 2021.

Catarina arrived at the Mubadala Arena on day one of the 2024 World Championships feeling relaxed and calm, no nerves, no barriers, just ready to enjoy a good fight day in a place she feels comfortable.

Seeded 6th, beginning the day with a bye, she threw and held Aliyeva (AZE) and beat Lin (TPE) tactically to take her into a quarter-final, meaning a 6th top 8 finish as a minimum in as many events in UAE. She was right to feel comfortable at the start of the day. A loss against the eventual gold medallist and then a win in the repechage put Costa into yet another final block.

Winning in the repechage against Ferreira (BRA). Abu Dhabi World Championships, 2024.

Catarina Costa said, ahead of her bronze medal contest, “I’m fighting for a medal again, which is always good. This arena always gives me good vibes, a nice sensation. I am happy to fight on this world stage, doing what I love the most. I’m focused on my matches and studying others but with my extra time, the little free time we have, I like to talk and relax and then bring myself back to focus when necessary. To be focused all the time is really hard and takes a lot of energy."

"I have a little responsibility and leadership within the Portuguese team. I know the youngest ones look at me to find their way, even looking for some advice about different things. For me it’s a good pressure to know that my work is being watched by the newer members of the team.

The beginning of the year was hard with a foot injury and then afterwards a surgery on my elbow and I was out of judo completely for two months so I missed fighting at the grand prix in Portugal. I so love to compete at home and felt a bit empty not being able to fight in front of my home crowd with my friends and family there.

Winning gold at the Portugal Grand Prix, 2022.

Coming back was very hard and my feeling and pace were not there. My confidence was affected and so I know my performance didn’t match my ranking. But I focused on the process, working hard with the medical team and coaches and my colleagues. Week by week I improved and the medal at the Europeans was really important. I felt then that I was on a good path. I placed 5th in Tajikistan and now again I am in a medal fight. Win or lose that medal, I feel my form is back and I have good consistency.

I am happy and grateful for all I have been through, even those darker times. It’s controversial that one of my worst periods gave me one of the biggest opportunities and now I’m moving in the right way.”

Fighting for bronze at the 2024 World Championships.

Catarina’s fifth place at the Abu Dhabi World Championships keeps her in a seeding position for the Olympic Games and she is looking forward to being focused at the the right time to enjoy giving her best on the Olympic stage.

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