Expectations were high for the -52kg number one seed PUPP Reka, but those extra pressures seemed only to fuel her fire.
Step by step she drew nearer to the final and the gold medal in front of a supportive home crowd, and in her ultimate contest looked more at home than ever.
This is actually my first medal at home, I’ve been in the final block before, but sadly it didn’t work out, but today I was able to give back to my home crowd everything they have given me over the years.
Looking at her individual contests, they became shorter and shorter, and her initial contest was difficult to say the least. Kelly DEGUCHI (CAN) took Pupp in to golden score and it took some time for the Hungarian to find a way to score, and te waza was that way. In the quarter final LIU Ben (CHN) gave a tough contest but again, Pupp secured the win.
The semi final with Mascha BALLHAUS (GER) could have been rocky for Pupp given that on their last meeting the win went to Ballhaus in the European championships. Unfortunately for the German she found herself in a hold and submitted.
In this arena for the Hungary Grand Slam, it is staged to perfection, the backdrop for the athletes coming out to their medal contests sees them exit the very dramatic bridge arch, the lighting dimmed till they reach the tatami. All the while the crowd are cheering, horns blowing, Pupp was ready.
This was also the first time facing the 17 year-old Giulia CARNA (ITA), as she is still very fresh on the IJF tour. The youngster took silver in the junior world championships in 2021 but today stepped up in a big way to defeat the current European champion Chelsie GILES (GBR) and she most definitely fancied herself on top of the podium.
Pupp was simply in her element and shortly after her first waza ari scoring uchi mata, she followed up with another to secure her gold. It was her conviction and dominance of the contest which was most impressive.
Since her return to the circuit following the pandemic we have seen a whole new athlete and she has become one of the front runners of this category. Speaking with her coach, former world and European champion Akos BRAUN, he couldn’t be happier with the medal.
I am very happy that she could win in front of the home audience, her performance improved during the day and I think the final was her best. I did think that this final would be more difficult, but she made it look easy and surprised me.
The pandemic was actually a good thing for us, before the pandemic she was physically as strong as the others in her category but during this time we couldn’t do judo, only physical preparation. She really trained a lot and by the time we converted it to judo it was perfect timing, she’s on top and I can only hope she stays here.
Pupp has been collecting medals since her return, seven grand slam including three gold, as well as a senior European bronze. It definitely feels as if she has ‘arrived’ and has significantly closed the gap between herself and number one seed Amandine BUCHARD (FRA).
Author: Thea Cowen