SLOVENIA RETAIN -63 TITLE AS RUSSIA TAKES MEDAL TABLE TOP SPOT

Olympic Games 2016

There can be little argument as to who at present is the best -63kg player in the world. That title, along with the European, world and now Olympic titles, belongs to Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO). Her gold medal winning performance on day four of competition at the Rio Olympics also ensured that the -66kg title won four years ago in London by Urska ZOLNIR (SLO) stays in Slovenia. It may have been a nervous Trstenjak who squeezed past Edwige GWEND (ITA) on penalties in the opening round. But, thereafter, Trstenjak was at her punishing best defeating by ippon JANG Junxia (CHN), Mariana SILVA (BRA), and in the final, former world champion and number two seed Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA).

The atmosphere in the Carioca 2 Arena was at fever pitch for Trstenjak’s semifinal with Mariana SILVA (BRA). When asked how she coped with the atmosphere Trstenjak answered, “We prepared good tactics with my coach and we knew that the conditions would be very tough, because the full stadium was against me but I was focused and finally I succeeded." With regard to the execution of the winning technique Trstenjak said, "Clarisse is a very strong judoka but she made a mistake and I took advantage of it. Although it’s fairly basic, I’d been this move a great deal. I know exactly where my feet should be and the special way in which to use my legs and so today this training was the key to my success." The special nature of the win had not escaped Trstenjak either. “I’ve been inspired by Urska since her win in London in 2012,” said Trstenjak.

Aged only 25, there is plenty of time for Trstenjak to realize other ambitions. "I have a lot of ambitions for the future but it is impossible to talk about these at this moment. I’ll go to my room, sit down and stay on my own just to let things sink in a little. Then I’ll sleep, I can enjoy being Olympic champion after I’ve had a rest,” said Trstenjak.

There was a bronze medal for Yarden GERBI (ISR) who may reasonably be considered to have made a successful return to the scene of her 2013 world championship win. “Yes and no,” said Gerbi. “Of course I wanted gold but to finish with a medal is a good result and I'm very happy. I feel very proud for my country, for my federation and all staff over here - my coach, and I am very proud to be Israeli,” said Gerbi.

The second of the bronze medals went to Anicka VAN EMDEN (NED) who said, "It feels so good. It's what I always wanted for the last eight years. I wanted it so bad and now I got it. I can't believe it.” When asked about her struggles to qualify and be selected Van Emden said, “It has been really hard. You know, I missed the London Olympic Games. That was very difficult for me. Now, I just wish to enjoy being down here with the medal." With regard to the bronze medal match Van Emden said, "I was just very strong in my head. I was really sharp. I think that did it because I was nervous but I didn't let it bother me. She [Silva] was really strong today! But I managed to score and then to win.”


It certainly seems as though the Russian team has been able to put behind it all the stress and pressure that engulfed their final preparations for Rio. As things stand, Russia tops the medal table in judo and is in exactly the same position as they were in London in 2012 at this stage of the competition (two gold and one bronze medal). The decision to send Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS) to Rio instead of former world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Ivan NIFONTOV (RUS) is now fully justified given Khalmurzaev’s gold medal winning performance in the -81kg category. The 22 year-old Russian began slowly defeating Saeid MOLLAEI (IRI) on penalties. Thereafter, Khalmurzaev picked up the pace defeating Mohamed ABDELAAL (EGY) and then Antoine VALOIS-FORTIER both by waza ari. And there was still yet another gear for Khalmurzaev to move up to as he showed when he defeated first Sergiu TOMA (UAE) in the semifinal and then Travis STEVENS (USA) in the final.

“Well, the first fight is always very tight as you never know how you will be competing and what the day will,” said Khalmurzaev. "I can not believe it. I'm happy for all the Russian people," said Khalmurzaev. When asked about facing Stevens in the final Khalmurzaev responded, "I know this opponent and I know him to be very strong. So I had to do all I could to win this gold medal. I just saw on the TV that I am the winner of these Games and I can't believe it."

With regard to his preparation in the lead up to the Games Khalmurzaev said, “Our coaches tried to keep us away from all the talk and negative publicity so we were not as nervous as we could have been.” When asked about the importance of the medal Khalmurzaev answere


-81 kg

1. KHALMURZAEV, Khasan (RUS)

2. STEVENS, Travis (USA)

3. NAGASE, Takanori (JPN)

3. TOMA, Sergiu (UAE)

-63 kg

1. TRSTENJAK, Tina (SLO)

2. AGBEGNENOU, Clarisse (FRA)

3. GERBI, Yarden (ISR)

3. VAN EMDEN, Anicka (NED)

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