Mexican Paralympic champion Edoardo Avila Sanchez returned to the top of podium at the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo and Goalball International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, on Thursday (4 July).
A gruelling 3:36 long golden score ended with victory for Avila Sanchez against South Korean world title holder Jung Min Lee in the men's up to 81kg.
Sanchez was competing in only his second competition after sustaining a severe back injury which meant he missed the 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships.
It was a tense affair with both men evenly matched throughout. Lee’s coach thought at one point his judoka had the edge, but the referee disagreed.
In the end it was Sanchez who was awarded the point after Lee faltered, allowing the Mexican a chance to flip him.
“I feel glad. I was in a very dangerous situation one year ago but now I can dream again and I am here winning. I can’t believe it,” Avila Sanchez said.
French Worlds bronze medallist Nathan Petit once again occupied the third podium spot. He was joined by Ukraine’s Dmytro Solovey.
A waza-ari and then ippon from Paralympic champion Zviad Gogotchuri in the men’s up to 100kg saw the Georgian maintain his unbeaten run.
Great Britain’s Christopher Skelley, the World No.1 heading into the competition, could do nothing against Gogotchuri’s technique. As a nod towards their ongoing race to the top, both athletes paused on their knees at the end of the match, looking at each other for a few seconds.
Brazil’s Beijing 2008 Paralympic champion Antonio Tenorio showed once again that he still has podium potential with bronze. Cuba’s Isao Cruz Alonso stood alongside on the podium.
Georgian newcomer Revaz Chikoidze delivered a shock in the men’s over 100kg. He ground down South Korea’s Gwang Geun Choi, the Paralympic title holder in the men’s up to 100kg, forcing him to commit three shido.
Chikoidze made his debut just a few weeks ago at the IBSA Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he claimed bronze.
China’s Song Wang and Great Britain’s Jack Hodgson were the bronze medallists.
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Nazarenko returned to the mat in the men’s up to 90kg to claim his latest gold. He overcame France’s Helios Latchoumanaya in the final.
Great Britain’s Elliot Stewart, another bronze medallist from the World Championships, took third alongside Brazil’s Arthur Silva Cavalcante.
Mexican Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba returned to the top of the podium in the women’s up to 70kg, adding another chapter to the great rivalry between her and Brazilian world champion Alana Martins.
At the 2018 Worlds it was Martins who topped the podium as Ruvalcaba settled for third.
In Fort Wayne on Thursday a golden score point from the Mexican was enough to seal gold in a lengthy battle. Ruvalcaba could barely manage her notorious celebrations at the end but was nonetheless pleased with her performance.
“I am very happy and emotional,” she said.
China’s Wang Ping and Turkey’s Raziye Ulucam rounded off the podium.
Having missed out on the top spot of the podium at IBSA Judo Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, in May, China’s Hongyu Wang grabbed gold again in the women’s over 70kg.
An ippon with an impressive throw against Brazil’s Rebeca Silva saw Wang take the win.
Silva’s teammate Meg Emmerich finished with bronze, as did Italian Worlds silver medallist Carolina Costa.
In the women’s up to 63kg, Ukraine’s Paralympic and world championships silver medallist Iryna Husieva overcame China’s Yue Wang for gold.
Japan’s Hiroko Kudo and Sweden’s Nicolina Pernheim were the bronze medallists.
The USA and China women as well as Turkey in the men’s sit top of their respective group standings after the third day of pool play on Thursday. Ukraine and South Korea are level on points in men’s group B.
The US are the only unbeaten side in their group after a 7-4 Independence Day win over Ukraine. Despite Amanda Dennis picking up an injury with six minutes left of the game, the team stood their ground against a strong Ukrainian squad.
Marybai Huking said: “I feel like our team handled a decent amount of adversity. We had a couple of things that didn’t exactly go our way throughout the game but we were able to hold onto it and come together as a team.
“They’re [Ukraine] a really good team. They do a really good job mixing up their offence and they gave us some struggles with their bigger bounce balls so they did a great job.”
China came away with a 6-1 victory over South Korea to extend their group X lead over Israel to three points. However the Chinese have played one more game than their opponents and everything is still to play for.
Ukraine continued to dominate in the men’s winning 11-5 over Spain. But they have a game in hand as South Korea, also on three points at the top of the group, have played four games. The South Koreans beat Poland 15-8.
Turkey became the first team to beat reigning Paralympic champions Lithuania to take the lead at the top of group A. An incredible performance from the Turkish ended with an impressive 11-4 scoreline.
Huseyin Alkan said: “Paralympic qualification means a lot to me because it would be the third time in a row we would participate at a Paralympic Games. I am sure we are going to get the ticket from here and we will be the champions in the Paralympics as well.”
The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier features 13 women’s teams and 14 men’s teams. The gold and silver medallists from Fort Wayne 2019 will punch their tickets to Tokyo 2020.
Judoka from around the world are also competing to improve their place in the world rankings towards qualification.
The competition is being shown live at the IBSA Goalball and Judo Facebook pages and IBSA’s YouTube channel.
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