Sunday, August 14, 2016

-52kg Overview

The women's -52kg weight class featured a superstar in the form of Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS) but also competing was triple World Champion Misato Nakamura (JPN). A potential challenger to the both of them was Andreaa Chitu (ROU).

Pool A: Giufridda (ITA)
Chitu started her campaign well, throwing Laura Gomez (ESP) with a hip throw for yuko, followed by a very low soto-makikomi for waza-ari. Another soto-makikomi gave her waza-ari-awasatte-ippon.

This pitted her up against Odette Giufridda (ITA), who had beaten Mareen Kraeh (GER) with a direct attack tani-otoshi that scored yuko. On paper Chitu was the stronger competitor but in their match, Giufridda was the one who scored with a nicely-timed footsweep for yuko.

Pool B: Ma (CHN)
Home favorite Erika Miranda (BRA) won her first match  against Hela Ayari (TUN) by swinging her around, taking her to the ground and pinning her for ippon. The Tunisian suffered a badly injured left shoulder and had to be helped off the mat.

Miranda wasn't able to manhandle Ma Yingnan (CHN) but she was ahead by one penalty when, with less than 30 seconds to go, the Chinese player launched an ouchi-gari that scored waza-ari. And with that, she dashed Miranda's hope of Olympic gold.

Pool C: Kelmendi (KOS)
Kelmendi wasted no time launching Evelyne Schoppe (SUI) with an uchimata that thrilled the crowd. But in her next fight against Christianne Legentil (MRI), who had surprisingly beaten her by ippon in the 2012 London Olympics, Kelmendi was extremely cautious. Never really fully committing to her attacks, she relied on aggressive gripping to make her opponent look passive. Winning by penalties isn't what the crowd wanted to see but she was through to the semi-finals.

Pool D: Nakamura (JPN)
Nakamura used groundwork to defeat Tsolmon Adiyasambuu (MGL), pinning her for ippon. That victory brought her up against the very tough Natalia Kuziutina (RUS) for a spot in the semi-finals. It was a fierce battle that took them into Golden Score. There, the Japanese pinned her Russian opponent for the chance to face Kelmendi in the semi-finals.


In the first repercharge match, home favorite Miranda was down by waza-ari when she launched Romania's Chitu with a beautiful uchimata for a crowd-pleasing ippon.

Legentil of Mauritius played an overly defensive game against Russia's Kuziutina, who managed to catch Legentil on the ground and then pin her for ippon. But even if she hadn't, the Russian would have still won it on penalties.

A semi-final bout between Giufridda and Ma was not something the pundits would have expected. Theirs was a scrappy match and in the end, the Italian won by a penalty.

The semi-final match between Kelmendi and Nakamura could easily have been the final. It was also a very tactical fight. Although there were no big throws the crowd was fully into this match because of the personalities involved. In the end, Kelmendi won by shido although was very lucky not to have been given a shido herself as she was backtracking a lot towards the end.

Miranda and Nakamura's match was a closely fought one. Spurred on by the home crowd, Miranda took the fight to the Japanese and at the end of five minutes no one was ahead. Perhaps incensed at not being able to throw the Brazilian during regular time, Nakamura unleashed all her fury in Golden Score, launching non-stop attacks. Miranda was in danger of getting a shido when she was thrown by a sharp ouchi-gari for yuko.

Compared to the tense Miranda-Nakamura battle, the second bronze medal match between Russia's Kuziutina and China's Ma was a relatively tame affair. The uneventful match ended when the Russian beat pinned her Chinese opponent for ippon.

Giufridda could have fought a tactical match and try to beat Kelmendi by shido. That's what underdogs tend to do when faced against a top competitor. But the feisty Italian would not have any of that. Instead she took the offensive and did a bold direct-attack tani-otoshi (she used this to great effect in her earlier match against Germany's Kraeh). But it's always a danger this against an uchimata specialist like Kelmendi, who used that very technique to counter Gifridda for a yuko. After that, Kelmendi played a tactical game, running out the time to win herself an Olympic gold medal. Kudos however to Giufridda for daring to attack.

“I'm so happy. To be honest, I came here for the gold medal, but it's crazy. I'm so happy for me, for my coach, for all my country. This is the first time that Kosovo is part of the Olympics, and for the first time, I think gold is huge."

Final Results
1. KELMENDI, Majlinda (KOS)
2. GIUFFRIDA, Odette (ITA)  
3. NAKAMURA, Misato (JPN)
3. KUZIUTINA, Natalia (RUS)
5. MIRANDA, Erika (BRA)  
5. MA, Yingnan (CHN)
7. CHITU, Andreea (ROU)
7. LEGENTIL, Christianne (MRI)

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