IJF Media Department
IJF Gabriela Sabau / International Judo Federation
Two Canadian rivals battled in the final U57kg at the Grand Slam of Antalya. Jessica Klimkait is world number one and the and Christa Deguchi is the reigning world champion, but there is only one ticket to the Olympic Games this summer. A total joy for the judo fans, but a huge disappointment for the athlete who takes silver in Turkey.
We obviously expected a close fight and it was, as the two competitors know each other so well and they want to avoid making the slightest mistake which could have so much implication. On the one hand, we had Deguchi’s calm and precise judo, trying to put her hands down perfectly, to aim and launch movements from a distance, like a fencer coming to carry the final blow. On the other hand, we had Klimkait who swirled around her opponent, regularly disappearing under her centre of gravity with countless drop seoi-nage, but most did not really endanger Deguchi. In the end, it was these same movements, ones that hurt all her opponents so much, that cost Klimkait the victory, penalised several times for false attacks. Deguchi claimed precious points for Olympic qualification but she knows that it’s not all over yet. This is why we have not seen her explode with joy, but we saw the discontent taking shape on Jessica’s face. How fierce the battle is, how beautiful the battle is. We spotted them chatting closely, as teammates, as they left the podium and maybe this is the most important, valuable part of the rivalry.
Many countries would like to have such a choice to make. Gauging themselves from a distance, the victories of one responding to that of the other, but there still remains a huge decision between them in a dream final and it was precisely this match that closed the first day of competition in Antalya.
In Turkey we are seeing diversity and a convergence of problem-solving, with Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe all having athletes in the final block of day 1. The little niggles and timing issues are gradually being rectified and the inactivity of the pandemic period is looking further and further behind us.
For a place on the podium, we found three time grand slam medallist, Loredana Ohai (ROU) and the 2019 world bronze medallist Julia Kowalczyk (POL), facing each other, with the bronze medal going to Kowalczyk.
In the match for the second bronze medal, Ghofran Khelifi (TUN), winner of the 2019 African Games, was up against Lu Tongjuan (CHN), bronze medallist in Hohhot in 2019 and the victory went to Lu.