Brazil’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Alana Maldonado returned from the disappointment of her home Paralympics five years ago to claim a much coveted Paralympic title on the final day of judo competition (29 August) at Tokyo 2020.
Despite taking on a tough opponent such as Georgia’s Ina Kaldani, who had beaten Mexican Paralympic title-holder Lenia Ruvalcaba on her way to the final, Maldonado’s victory in the women's -70kg gold medal combat rarely looked in doubt.
The Brazilian got a waza-ari on the board but continued to attack. She was unlucky to miss out on more points as Kaldani floundered. When the clock ticked over to 0:00, Maldonado let out a huge scream and embraced her coach after being officially awarded the win.
“It was five years of very hard work, a lot of uncertainty about whether we would be here,” Maldonado said. “I went through a lot of personal things, which made me almost give up.
“It’s not easy for us to go after medals. We have a life and we have to give it up in order to do this. But today I can say everything was worth it. I made my dream come true and those people who love me are very happy.
“This gold is not just mine, it’s ours. There are a lot of people behind it. Thank you so much for everyone’s support. This gold is ours, it’s going to Brazil.”
Double Iranian celebration
World Championships bronze medallist Vahid Nouri won Iran’s first Paralympic judo gold in the men’s -90kg.
Nouri just caught Great Britain’s Elliot Stewart with a neat sweep of his foot for ippon in the final.
The Iranian reflected on a historic win:
“This is the first gold medal for Iran in Paralympic judo. Before we got silver, bronze, now this is the first gold. I am so thrilled when my national flag goes up. I live judo.”
Vahid Nouri Ⓒ Getty Images
Following on from Nouri’s gold, teammate Mohammed Kheriollahzadeh then went on to get gold in the men’s +100kg to double up for Iran.
Georgia’s Revaz Chikoidze was the silver medallist.
Great Britain grab gold
A tense clash between Great Britain’s World Championships bronze medallist Chris Skelley and the USA’s Benjamin Goodrich saw both judoka register significant results for their countries in the final of the men’s -100kg.
Skelley and Goodrich both came into the match with nothing to lose. Skelley was already delighted with making it onto the podium having missed out at Rio 2016.
Into the final, it was Skelley who made the first successful move just under a minute in. The Brit kept fighting until the end and held on for the win. It was Great Britain’s first judo Paralympic gold in more than two decades, since Atlanta 1996.
“[It’s] disbelief. It’s been a long road for the last 11 years. It was hard after Rio (2016). It put a big target on my back, so I needed to get here and train even harder to stay where I am.
“Eleven years ago [when I started to lose my sight], I was at the darkest part of my life because there was nothing left for me. The only thing that was left was my judo.”
“To have that come true today, I can’t believe it.”
Full results are available online.