The unseeded Barbara Matic of Croatia won the first ever world championship gold medal for her country. Here in Budapest she was not seeded because there were at least 8 athletes ahead of her but she won her pool which included the 2019 World Champion and now takes over that red back patch from Marie-Eve Gahie who lost in the first round.
The first final of the day saw Barbara Matic (CRO) facing Yoko Ono (JPN). As the latter was the third seeded athlete of the competition, it was therefore not really a surprise to see her in the final. The story was a little different with Barbara Matic.
When Gahie lost first round against the Dutch number three, Hilde Jager (NED), suddenly the first half of the draw opened up. This was the chance for Matic, who didn't let go and in the next round defeated the Dutch competitor. After she stopped Miriam Butkereit (GER), Matic had to pass Michaela Polleres (AUT) in the semi-final, which she did, after a long golden score period.
As the final started, Matic was immediately on the attack and seemed more dangerous than her Japanese opponent. The latter was clearly looking for the ne-waza, where the Japanese team is well known for its skills. Matic remained focused and careful. As the end of the match was approaching with only a couple of shido to see, the Croatian competitor scored a welcome waza-ari, but it was not over. Until the very last second, Ono tried desperately to strangle her opponent but Matic resisted and when the final gong echoed in the arena, she could kneel, arms wide open in a sign of victory. She was the world champion, the first ever world champion for Croatia.
Barbara Matic said, "I was calm during the final until those last 40 seconds on the floor. It was the longest 40 seconds of my life. My coach was shouting "don’t tap, don’t tap! When the referee said ‘mate’ it sounded like gold."
Van Dijke thinks about her brother after winning
The first bronze medal contest opposed the finalist of the last Tel Aviv Grand Slam, Miriam Butkereit (GER) and the current European Champion, Sanne Van Dijke (NED). In less than thirty seconds, Van Dijke had taken a clear waza-ari lead with a maki-komi technique. She immediately followed on the floor but Butkereit seemed to be in a position to pin her down. She still had to free a leg to get the oseikomi. That’s where things can go wrong, especially if you miss a small part of the required control and Van Dijke turned the German over to catch her for a few more seconds for a second waza-ari. Finger in the air for her brother who passed away after her bronze medal contest, although she knew there was more to gain today.
Polleres gives Austria Olympic motivation
With several participations in the world championships but no result, it was a really good day at the office for Megan Fletcher (IRL), who qualified for the bronze medal contest against Michaela Polleres (AUT), bronze medallist at the 2020 Grand Slam Hungary. The two bronze medal contenders neutralised themselves for much of the match, with only one shido given to Fletcher, but as they entered the last minute, Polleres countered Fletcher for a waza-ari and concluded on the ground with an immobilisation for ippon. With that first bronze medal, Austria enters the medal table. A nice welcome present for former Olympic champion and new head coach of the Austrian team, Yvonne Bönisch.