Alice Schlesinger Beats Israeli Yarden Gerbi and Wins Grand Slam Baku Gold Medal

Israeli-born Schlesinger, who switched from competing for Israel at the end of 2014, bested her Israeli rival in 54 seconds.

Israel-born Alice Schlesinger, competing for Britain (in blue), in the women's under 63 kg, February 20, 2016.
Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters

Israelis Yarden Gerbi and Alice Schlesinger knew that the three consecutive victories that each had at the Grand Slam judo championships in Baku, Azerbaijan would lead them to face each other for the third time since Schlesinger began competing for Britain, as of the end of 2014.

In the quarter-finals, Gerbi beat Megumi Tsugane of Japan while Schlesinger needed just 20 seconds to dispatch the Turkey’s Busra Katipoglu.

As a result, Israeli judo enthusiasts got another chance to witness a match between two outstanding judokas competing in the weight class of up to 63 kilos (139 pounds). It’s doubtful, however that even Schlesinger would have imagined that the semi-final match on Saturday would end so quickly and decisively. Responding to Gerbi, Schlesinger managed an Ippon, maximum victory, within just 54 seconds.

In the finals against Marijana Miskovic Hasanbegovic of Croatia, it took Schlesinger just 27 seconds to accomplish another beautiful Ippon, giving the British her gold medal. Israeli-born Schlesinger, who notched up a rare five Ippons in five matches in Baku, scored 500 points, putting her among the top eight female Olympic contenders and giving her a relatively easy shot at competing in Rio this summer.

Gerbi, whose spot in the top eight is assured, did not recover from her loss to Schlesinger, however. In the battle for the bronze in Baku, she lost to Cuba’s Mariset Espinosa in another Ippon in a minute and 37 second and was relegated to fifth place.

Among Israeli men, Asaf Chen (81 kilos, 179 pounds), made the quarter-finals but was beaten by a Hungarian opponent ranked 5th in the world and finished seventh after also losing the consolation round. And Israeli Tohar Butbul was defeated in the second round by European champion Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan.