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Benjamin Fletcher captures first ever World Tour gold for Ireland
21 Jan 2018 19:25
The switch to Ireland delivered a payout on Sunday at the last day of the Grand Prix in Tunis when Benjamin Fletcher claimed the gold medal U100kg. He is the only man for Ireland ever to take a victory in any World Cup. Only Lisa Kearney had won four World Cups in the past, but never a gold medal in the IJF World Tour.
With a third place at the 2014 Junior World Championships, Ramazan Malsuigenov (RUS) was opposed to Benjamin Fletcher (IRL), who used to defend the colours of Great Britain. Today competing for Ireland, the latter had the opportunity to register his name associated with his new country for the first time at a tournament on the world circuit. With this final, he was already assured of that. It remained to know what colour would be the medal. After 50 seconds, Malsuigenov received his first shido for passivity. It was then the turn of Fletcher to be penalised also for passivity, followed almost immediately by a second penalty for cross-gripping. Just before the last minute, once again, Malsuigenov was awarded with his second penalty for passivity, as the match was going on a strange rhythm. As the four minutes of regular time was over, the first golden score of today's final block started. After 47 seconds, on the edge of the competition area, Fletcher coud finally score with a powerful o-uchi-gari for waza-ari. This was the first gold medal for the new Irish athlete in a Grand Prix. Also sister Megan Fletcher switched last year to Ireland and was probably dancing for her stream about this milestone performance of brother Ben.
In the first final for the bronze medal, third in the Tashkent Grand Prix 2016, Viktor Demyanenko (KAZ) met the reigning African Champion, Lyes Bouyacoub (ALG). The latter was quickly penalised for escaping but then seemed to take the advantage over his opponent. But with less than 40 seconds left he applied a sumi-gaeshi technique for a first waza-ari, score that he doubled a few seconds later with a kata-guruma to win the bronze medal.
For the second bronze medal the Brazilian Leonardo Goncalves was opposed to Otto Imala (SUI), holder of three bronze medals in continental cup. Half way to the end, the Swiss seemed to show some signs of exhaustion after a long competition day and was immediately thrown by Goncalves for ippon.
The title of Benjamin Fletcher for Ireland had a nice taste. Formerly British, he made the choice to move to Ireland. A good choice for him as he was extraordinarily successful on the Tunisian tatami the whole day. It was the first ever gold medal on the World Judo Tour for an Irish athlete.
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Unelle Snyman (RSA)
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