Yarden Gerbi became the first Israeli woman to win a gold medal at the World Judo Championships on Thursday night.
Gerbi, the world number one in the -63 kilogram category, took just 43 seconds to dispose of her French opponent in the final, becoming the first Israeli to win any kind of medal at the World Championships since 2009, when Alice Schlesinger took the brozne medal.
Gerbi entered the competition in the second round, where she was up against Karla Catota Quijano of El Salvador.
With her first ippon of the day, Gerbi proved that she was far too strong for Quijano in a battle that lasted just 45 seconds.
In the second round, Gerbi scored yet another ippon, this time against Valentina Giorgis of Italy, 2:04 minutes before the end of the bout.
In the quarterfinal, Gerbi recorded her third consecutive ippon, just 1:52 minutes into her match-up against Tina Trstenjak of Croatia.
Gerbi’s had every reason to fear that her run would come to an end in the semifinal, where she faced a familiar opponent in the shape of Japanese judoka Kana Abe. Gerbi had faced Abe three times before and never won, and it was clear from her hesitant opening that the Israeli woman was well aware of her record.
But with 2:13 minutes left on the clock, Gerbi pinned her veteran opponent to the mat, forcing her to concede. That win ensured a medal for Gerbi, but to make it gold she still had one fight left.
Gerbi looked determined from the very start of the final against Clarisse Agbegnenou, and when the judges confirmed her fifth ippon in as many fights she could no longer hold back the tears as she fell into the arms of her long-time coach, Shani Hershko.
The force of the winning ippon was so great, according to French media reports, that Agbegnenou dislocated her shoulder.
Gerbi – who has been struggling to find a sponsor for the past few months – will receive a NIS 100,000 grant from the Olympic Committee of Israel and the Sports Betting Council. Hershko will be awarded NIS 50,000.
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