Luz Olvera emerged victorious on a historic day for Mexico.
The young sensation delighted the home crowd on the opening day of the 2017 Cancun Grand Prix as she dominated Slovenia’s Anja Stangar in the quarter-finals.
The 23-year-old proved too strong for her opponent, throwing her not once but twice with uchi-mata, scoring Waza Ari with both.
The semi-final was a tense affair as Olvera battled it out with Angelica Delgado who showed resilience throughout the contest. The Mexican eventually prevailed after two and a half minutes of golden score thanks to yet another perfectly taken uchi-mata, setting up a thrilling final with Sarah Menezes.
Olvera got off to a strong start as the 2012 Olympic Champion of the under 48 kilo category was penalised for passivity. The shido proved to be the difference between the pair with Menezes finally able to celebrate a hard-fought win.
Team Mexico, which had only won a single Grand Prix medal, registered in all three medal columns to finish the opening day second in medal table with a record-breaking haul of one gold, one silver and one bronze medal ahead of Brazil.
“It’s a very important medal because it’s the first one in a Grand Prix for Mexico,” said Olvera following her triumph. “I think it’s also very important for children who are watching and who will see that their dreams can come true.”
The first bronze medal of the under 52 kilo class was clinched by Rio silver medallist Odette Giuffrida in her first IJF competition since the Olympic Games. The Italian judoka looked in great shape and outclassed Baku Grand Slam bronze medallist Anja Stangar of Slovenia with a superb ko-soto-gari for ippon with just one second left on the clock.
This result sees Giuffrida claim a sixth Grand Prix medal, giving her a major boost ahead of the world Championships which will take place in August.
Francisco Garrigos was the man to watch on the opening day as the Spaniard turned on the style in the under 60 kilo class. The European Championships bronze medallist stunned Israel’s Daniel Ben David in the semis before taking his momentum into the showpiece match.
Garrigos, who was up against Phelipe Pelim, dominated the Brazilian from the outset and eventually prevailed after forcing his opponent to submit to a hadaka-jime strangle after only 33 seconds.
“I’ve competed against Brazilian athletes before, explained Garrigos. “I expected a much tougher and difficult fight. But in the end I managed to get a quick strangulation and that was that.”
The rest of the day’s action saw the International Judo Federation President, Mr. Marius Vizer, reward Gabriela Chibana for her efforts in the under 48 kilo category.
The 23-year-old Brazilian, who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2012, produced a solid performance to beat local favourite Edna Carillo in the final while Israel’s Tal Flicker reigned supreme in the under 66 kilo class.
The world number four, who won his first Grand Slam in Baku in March, finally struck gold at a Grand Prix with an emphatic win by ippon as he held down Spain’s Alberto Gaitero Martin for 20 seconds having already produced two waza-ari scores.
Mexico’s first ever Grand Prix is the penultimate event before the annual showpiece in Budapest as the IJF World Judo Tour moves on from America to visit the Chinese city of Hohhot next for a Grand Prix from 30 June – 2 July.
MARCA Claro (@MarcaClaro) 17 juin 2017