Dutch Pleuni Cornelisse set her career best in Linz on Thursday by winning the title U57kg at the Grand Prix Upper Austria. In the final she overcame Seija Ballhaus by wazari. With the bronze medal of the Dutch team recently at the Mixed team event, The Dutch are seeking for the one who can qualify for the Games to enforce the gap U57kg, Cornelisse just offered the option with another 700 points in the pocket.
With the two finalists having shown great skills and power throughout the day, the last contest of the first day of competition at the Upper Austria Grand Prix was announced to be tight. Halfway through there was just a shido apiece. With one minute left on the scoreboard, Cornelisse took a good option on the victory with a waza-ari. Would she be capable of keeping the result, under Ballhaus’ pressure. Nothing was sure until the last seconds but yes, she did it to win the gold medal.
In the semi-final Cornelisse left no chance for the Olympic medallist and former double world champion, Daria Bilodid, who, it must be emphasised, had a very complicated quarter-final against Nekoda Smythe-Davis (GBR); the two competitors prolonged the fight for a long golden score, before Bilodid finally found an opportunity.
As the number one seed of the tournament, Marica Perisic (SRB), winner of the Tbilisi Grand Slam 2023, had hopes of repeating her Georgian performance, but she saw her path blocked by the young Japanese junior Akari Omori who claimed the bronze medal. She arrived only with a third place from Tashkent last March and in Tokyo in December 2022, after her silver medal at the Junior World Championships Guayaquil in August last year.
All that remained for Omori was to pass the obstacle Seija Ballhaus (GER), who was cadet world champion in 2017. If only two years separate the two athletes, it was two additional years of experience that were enough for Ballhaus to qualify for the final.
The first match for a bronze medal was fought between Marica Perisic (SRB) and Daria Bilodid (UKR). Less active than Bilodid, Perisic was penalised with a first shido, but still showed some good resistance in front of the double world champion, enough resistance to enter the golden score period. It was then that Daria Bilodid decided to launch a massive soto-makikomi to register a waza-ari. It’s probably not the colour she came for but bronze is still a very good result for the Ukrainian champion.
Nekoda Smythe-Davis, who progresses competition after competition to find her best level, was opposed by Akari Omori for the gain of the second bronze medal. Unfortunately for the Brit, the bronze medal contest didn’t go her way, after she was scored against with a first waza-ari and after a strong kumi-kata battle, she went down a second time, the victory going to Akari Omori.