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Happy homecoming Grand Prix hat-trick for Barbara Matic
24 Sep 2016 21:15
Former double Junior world champion Barbara Matic won her home event for the first time as she delighted her fans with her third career Grand Prix victory. Matic, who has realistic ambitions to be her country’s first Olympic judo medallist, had previously won in Tbilisi 2014 and Qingdao 2015.
Matic had an appealing assignment in the final against former world bronze medallist Katarzyna Klys of Poland who was physically the more imposing and more experienced of the two judoka. Croatia’s Matic won the battle of Rio 2016 Olympians and the hosts’ first medal at the Zagreb Grand Prix 2016 to a rapturous ovation as a shido against Klys for passivity after two minutes was the pivotal moment of the scoreless final. Matic was inundated for autograph requests and pictures by a large group of excited children and gratefully satisfied them before being relieved of her duties – to get ready for the awarding ceremony – by her younger sister Brigita Matic who will be in U78kg action on Sunday.
Matic said, “I am really happy to have been able to win in front so many supporters, friends and family. I really wanted to win for Croatia.” Regarding the knee injury Matic said, “Of course it was difficult to give the kind of performance that I wanted to. But I am not going to concern myself about how it looked. I am just happy that I won. I guess the injury will mean some time out now, perhaps six weeks or so.”
In the first semi-final Klys bested Sofia European Open winner Anka Pogacnik of Slovenia after 35 seconds of golden score as the Polish judoka threw with a harai-makikomi for ippon to confidently move into the gold medal contest. In the second semi-final Matic defeated Tallinn European Open winner Anna Bernholm (SWE) by a waza-ari with a makikomi effort as the home judoka guaranteed Croatia their first medal of the competition while her Swedish victim moved into one of the two bronze medal contests.
The first bronze medal was claimed by teenage Tyumen Grand Slam bronze medallist Aleksandra Samardzic (BIH) who beat Bernholm as the Swede is evidently still finding her feet at her heavier weight category of -70kg. The contest was scoreless going into the final 30 seconds until Samardzic beautifully threw with an uchi-mata for a waza-ari and a popular result with the Croatian fans. The second bronze medal was captured by Pogacnik who beat Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner Gercsak Szabina (HUN). European Championships bronze medallist Gercsak is one of the most accomplished young judoka to come out of Hungary and has a bright future ahead of her at the senior stage but had to settle for fifth-place today as a weak osoto-gari was blocked and countered with an osoto-makikomi for ippon with 20 seconds remaining.
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