After having to forfeit her bronze medal match at London 2012 competition when she suffered a serious ankle injury in the semi-final, France’s Sandrine Martinet made amends here in Rio.
Unlike in London, everything went right for Beijing 2008 silver medallist Martinet in front of a loud and colourful crowd in Carioca Arena 3.
Martinet’s ankle was still heavily strapped, but there were no signs of injury impacting her performance as she defeated Germany’s London 2012 champion Ramona Brussig by 12 points to seal the up to 52kg title.
“I’m very happy, it was a lot of sacrifice, with injuries and family commitments,” Martinet said. “Today I felt good mentally and that makes the difference, today was my day.”
There was also disappointment for Brussig’s twin sister Carmen in the final of the up to 48kg event, where she was beaten by China’s 2014 world champion Liqing Li.
Like her twin, Brussig also won gold in 2012, but speaking after the fight she said it was always going to be a tough task to win consecutive Paralympic titles.
“I knew it would be very difficult because we were under pressure after London but as an athlete you are always happy to get a medal,” Brussig said.
“I had lost to her (Li) in the 2014 World Championships so I knew that she is very strong and I never found a way into the fight, it is something I will work on, but first I will enjoy the medal.”
For Li, the victory was an emotional one after a tough contest with Brussig.
“It was very exhausting,” she said. “I thought I could win, I was confident, but the result was very close. I was surprised by that. I thought I was winning by more. That also explained my emotions at the finish.”
In the men’s competition there was a surprise in the up to 60kg event as Uzbekistan’s world number one Sherzod Namozov defeated Azerbaijan’s London 2012 gold medallist Ramin Ibrahimov on his way to taking the Paralympic title.
Namozov defeated Japan’s Athens 2004 silver medallist Makoto Hirose by ippon to seal the gold medal and was clearly elated as he was paraded around the stadium on his coach’s shoulders.
“It was a wonderful moment,” Namozov said afterwards. “He wanted to do it. I sat on his shoulders and he carried me around the arena a little.”
It was a similar story in the up to 66kg event as Uzbekistan’s Utkirjon Nigmatov defeated Ukraine’s London 2012 champion Davyd Khorava in the semi-final. The gold medal was sealed with victory over Azerbaijan’s European Champion Bayram Mustafayev in the final bout of the day.
The fighting continues on Friday with judoka in the up to 57kg, up to 63kg, up to 73kg and up to 81kg events all in action.