In the Budapest Grand Slam 2020, Barbara MATIC (CRO) returned to the tatami following the pandemic break in the IJF tour, and took gold in the -70kg category. On the fifth day of the World Championships 2021, she felt at ease in the arena, confident she could repeat her performance and she did just that. Matic made history for Croatia by taking the first ever world title for her country.
It wasn’t an easy win for the Croatian, sheer grit and determination bringing her certain wins, especially in her quarter and semi final contests against Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER) and Michaela POLLERES (AUT). Both resulted in a golden score battle but Matic had the edge and came out on top, finishing the latter with a perfectly timed uchi mata.
Already, this was a monumental position for her to be in, a final of a world championship event. The university graduate not only applied her judo in the final against ONO Yoko (JPN) but used her intelligence to manage the contest perfectly. With only 40 seconds left on the clock, the 26 year-old scored waza ari with tani o toshi, putting her opponent under great pressure. Though Ono managed to apply shime waza, the Croatian managed to escape the grip and instead worked tirelessly for those final seconds to keep her lead.
As the crowd counted down, it was clear that Matic was the new world champion and with that accomplishment took home the first gold medal in such an event for her nation. Following two all-European bronze medal contests, she made it three for Europe in this category, once again demonstrating the strength of the continent in Hungary this week.
With preparation still in full flow for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, we hope to see Europe once again take the medals and Matic has her sights set on another major gold.
Author: Thea Cowen