The Shlomo Arena was a loud place today in Tel Aviv, with countless host nation athletes stepping up, after a deep breath, to give their everything to the crowd, finding a depth of performance maybe only a home event can draw out.
The Israeli team perhaps didn’t get the results they wanted, with Timna not quite making the -57kg final and the two -66kg contenders losing for bronze but at -48kg we found a new Israeli name and she took a silver medal home with her today: Tamar Malca. Timna Nelson Levy did reach the podium, winning bronze though and so two medals on the first day definitely is really good when you consider the level of the World Judo tour events!
Elsewhere there were moments of satisfaction such as the robustness of Giles all the way to gold, the outstanding performance of the -66kg Georgian, Nadiradze, sprinting up the ranking from his starting point at 354th. There was the determination of Lapuerta Comas (ESP) who threw from a waza-ari down to continue her day and eventually won a bronze medal.
We saw the unexpected defeat of Deguchi in an all Canadian -57kg final, while in the same group we saw the early departure of Yoshida, Kowalczyk and Monteiro, 3 world medallists.
We also welcomed refugee athletes to both the warm-up room and the spectator tribunes and heard their stories. Fabio was welcomed back too, not just to the tatami but to his favourite -66kg category and his story is only one of the big comebacks of the 2023 Tel Aviv Grand Slam, with Clarisse being the one holding everyone’s gaze tomorrow. She will step back into her -63kg rhythm for the first time after becoming a parent. Do we have faith in her timing? Of course we do. Always have faith in Agbegnenou!
Tomorrow will bring the 4 middleweight categories for Tel Aviv, looking for grand slam glory. Tune in online to watch the -63kg, -70kg, -73kg and -81kg athletes raise the power output.