Junior European Champion 2021 and Dushanbe Grand Prix gold medallist, Katarina KRISTO of Croatia, came in to the Paris Grand Slam with a world ranking position of #33, perhaps not someone you’d peg for the final. However she proved all the naysayers wrong and battled her way incredibly to take on the home favourite, already six-time Paris Grand Slam champion, six-time World Champion and double Olympic Champion, Clarisse AGBEGNENOU. This didn’t deter Kristo in the slightest, taking her opponent almost two minutes in to golden score, two shidos each and some very close scores, one that was originally given reconsidered in fact.
I am happy that the medal is here. If someone had told me yesterday that I would be in the final, that I would be second, I would have signed, but it’s always a bit sour when you lose in the final. All in all, I am satisfied, I had a very difficult period, injuries, obligations at the university. Finally, that I have returned to some kind of level where I want to be. This was one experience that I hope will help me get to Paris this summer, to the Olympics and, God willing, a better result here in half a year.
Though the crowd were in favour of her opponent during the final, throughout the day they were simply enjoying and supporting the great judo, a lot of which came from Kristo.
It’s an honor and a pleasure, an additional kind of motivation. There are not many tournaments where such a large number of spectators come, who truly love judo, who cheer, who yell when their players lose and when you throw theirs, who appreciate the sport, appreciate the pain, the technique to which the entire throw should be built through the fight.
So what about this final? The last, and only time, they’d competed on the international stage prior was in the Montpellier European Championships in November last year, and it was over a lot quicker in the opening rounds for Kristo, but today she brought a whole new fight.
Of course, with all her medals behind her, and all her experience, ten years older than me, I knew it would be a difficult task. I gave my 300 percent today. We see each other all the time during preparations and we are always there somewhere, li-la, me her, she me, we barely stretch. Today she did it a little smarter, she was a little more experienced, she let me get tired, today I was a little carried away by desire. It prevailed on her side this time, but I hope, I repeat in half a year, I hope that it will not prevail on her side.
As she says, Agbegnenou and most of the athletes on the tour have a great deal more experience on their side, but she’s the one holding the silver medal today in Paris, with undoubtedly much more to come.
Author: Thea Cowen