Frenchman wins in over 100kg final on day when luckless day for Emirati judokas
Cyrille Maret ecstatic to finally clinch gold medal at Abu Dhabi Grand Slam
French judo heavyweight Cyrille Maret ended his gold drought at the IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam after he won the over 100-kilogramme final from Maciej Sarnacki of Poland at the Ipic Arena on Saturday.
In his three previous appearances at the capital event, the bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games had finished fifth in 2011, when it was still a Grand Prix event, seventh in 2013 and bronze in 2014.
“It took a long time and a good amount of work to finally get my hands on the gold in Abu Dhabi,” Maret said.
“This place has been raising the bar all the time. Abu Dhabi is one of five Grand Slams on the IJF Calendar and for us, the judokas, it’s one of the most sort after medals."
The only gold medals Maret, 30, won at a Grand Slam before yesrerday were in his native Paris where he finished top of the podium three years in a row from 2014 to 2016.
“Indeed the gold I take from Abu Dhabi is very special,” he added. “I have had many good moments in my judo career and I’ll remember Abu Dhabi for a long, long time.
“For sure, I want to return to Abu Dhabi next year, if I stay healthy. It’s still a long way from now and of course plan to compete in a few other competitions as well.”
Also partaking in the gold rush at Abu Dhabi on the final night in the men’s division were Russian Nilaz Bilalov in the under 100kg and Spain’s Nikoloz Sherazadishvili in the 90kg.
In the women’s event, Tessie Savelkouls of the Netherlands took the over 78kg gold from Iryna Kindzerska of Azerbaijan and Briton Natalie Powell overcame Marhinde Verkerk of the Netherlands in the under 78kg final.
For Powell, the result - as well as the 1,000 ranking points that were up for grabs - means she will move up to world No 1 in the weight division when the new rankings are announced next week.
Powell arrived at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam ranked second in the world behind Brazilian Mayra Aguiar.
Aguiar went down to Verkerk in the semi-finals and got the better of Russian Antonina Shmeleva in the repechage to settle for e bronze with the Dutch world No 3 Guusje Steenhuis.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the result,” Powell said. “The success was all about the hard work that went in while preparing for Abu Dhabi.
“The Grand Slam Tokyo is next for me and I plan to spend a few weeks training there to build on my technique before the competition in December.”
Powell’s medal was the third for Britain at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam after silver and bronze for Lucy Renshall (63kg) and Nekoda Davis (57kg).
Russia topped the medals table with three gold, one silver and five bronze medals, followed by the Netherlands (2-2-1), Mongolia (2-1-0), Great Britain (1-1-1), Belgium (1-1-0), IJF (1-05), Spain (1-0-1), Italy (1-0-0), France (1-0-0) and Sweden (1-0-0).
The UAE had five entered competitors at the event, with only Ivan Remarenco reaching the third round before bowing out to Belgian Toma Nikiforov in the 100kg on Saturday.
Mihail Marchitan, the other judoka representing the host nation, became a second-round casualty to David Klammert of the Czech Republic.
Victor Scvortov went out in the second round and Rashed Al Mashjari was eliminated in the first round - both on Day 2. Khalifa Al Hosani was another first round casualty on Day 1.
Al Mashjari, 19, and Al Hosani, 18, both stressed they were taking part for the experience.
“The good thing is that both of us have age on our side,” Al Hosani added. “I was taking part in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam for the third time and they all count as experience.”