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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Dolgova continues perfect record at IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam with gold on opening day

Russian defeated Serbian Milica Nikolic in the final, but there was disappointment for the UAE's Khalifa Al Hosani

Irinia Dolgova, white, Russia, wins the gold medal at Abu Dhabi Grand Slam against Milica Nikolic, blue, Serbia. Reem Mohammed / The National
Irinia Dolgova, white, Russia, wins the gold medal at Abu Dhabi Grand Slam against Milica Nikolic, blue, Serbia. Reem Mohammed / The National

Irina Dolgova made it two gold medals from two visits at the IJF (International Judo Federation) Abu Dhabi Grand Slam at the Ipic Arena on Thursday.

The Russian, 22, overcame Serbia's Under-23 European champion Milica Nikolic in a golden score after a tense scoreless contest in the women’s 48-kilogramme weight final.

“To win gold on my debut two years ago was a wonderful experience and to win a second gold on my second visit was amazing,” said Dolgova, who missed last year's tournament to focus on preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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“I wasn’t fortunate to make it to the medal round at Rio but I’m still young and looking forward my goal is to make it to the 2020 Tokyo Games.”

Dolgova overcame Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh of Kazakhstan in the semi-final, while Nikolic stunned world and Olympic champion Paula Pareto of Argentina to reach the final.

“The competition in a Grand Slam is as good as the World and Olympics,” Dolgova said.

“It draws the best judokas from around the world and it’s the best on the day who win. I had a very tough passage and the final was very close. It could have gone either way, and I was lucky on the night.”

Charline van Snick claimed her first Grand Slam gold with victory over Brazilian Erika Miranda by ippon in the women’s 57kg final.

The 27-year-old Belgian was a bronze medallist at the London Olympic Games in 2012 but failed to reach the medal round in Rio when she was competing in the 48kg division.

“It was very difficult for me to maintain a strict diet to compete in the 48kg and the switch seems to have done a world of good to me,” van Snick said.

“I visited Abu Dhabi for the first time when it was a Grand Prix event. That was a long time ago and can’t remember. Returning to this venue, it looks all new to me. Everything has changed and my fortunes too.”

Sumiya Dorjsuren, the world No 1 from Mongolia, avenged her defeat to Brazilian Rafaela Silva in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the third final in the women’s division.

Khalifa Al Hosani, the sole flag bearer for the UAE on the opening day’s competition, became a first round casualty against Russian world No 9 Mikhail Puliaev.

The Emirati teenager, who took the three-time world silver medallist the full distance when they first met at the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku in May, couldn’t replicate that performance.

“I knew I was up against an experienced opponent but went into the competition with readiness and full of hopes, but it didn’t work out my way,” Al Hosani said.

“I’ll take this fight as another experience. I’m thankful for the support the federation has provided me and continue to work hard to achieve my long term objectives to win medals at this level.”

Russia won a second gold through Robert Mshvidobadze. He got the better of Brazilian Felipe Kitadai in the men’s 60kg final.

Tal Flicker, competing under the IJF flag, took the men’s 66kg final from Nijat Shikhalizada of Azerbaijan.

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