ABU DHABI // Catherine Roberge had to draw on 12 years of experience to overcome a mistake and win the gold medal on her debut at the International Judo Federation (IJF) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Canadian was ahead on points from Britain's Natalie Powell in the opening minute but lost her lead midway and had to produce a strong finish to win the women's 78kg final Saturday night at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
"It was a very tactical fight because we were both lefties," Roberge said. "I wasn't supposed to let her left hand go high up behind my back but she did it. It was a routine mistake and she threw me."
Roberge got her composure back before throwing her opponent down in the bout that went almost the full five-minute distance.
"I felt she was tiring and I was in good shape physically, and then I thought I'll force her for two penalty points to get even on points and then try to throw her. It took more time than I thought but I did it," she said. "She is only 21 and is very promising young athlete.
"She fought well but she is lacking in something.
"I was stronger, physically, as I do a lot of weightlifting, and also my experience, it had to come at the age of 30.
"I worked on my tactical plan once I had won the two penalty points. I wished I could have thrown her to Ippon [perfect throw] and be done with it but life doesn't always go the way we want."
It was Roberge's third competition in three weeks.
She arrived in Abu Dhabi after a third-place finish at Rome and a gold medal in Istanbul.
Roberge will spend two days on holiday in the Emirates with the slice of the US$150,000 (Dh550,980) total prize she picked up for the one day's work.
She plans to spend the whole winter in Europe to prepare for the opening Grand Prix for 2013, two grand slams and a mini World Cup, starting from January.
Roberge has just completed her studies in political science but wants to be involved in the sport as long as possible.
"I want to continue judo, perhaps help youngsters and see more Canadians take part in Abu Dhabi and win," she said.
The Abu Dhabi event is the penultimate Grand Prix of the season. There were events at Dusseldorf in February and Baku in May.
Qingdao in China will host the final grand prix of the year November 24 and 25.
In other finals last night, Kirill Voprosov and Sergey Samoilovich, two Russians, took the men's 90kg and 100kg titles while Masaru Momose won the 100kg and over from David Moura of Brazil with an Ippon in the final seconds for Japan's only gold from a 12-member team.
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