Sevda Valiyeva won her maiden gold medal on her Paralympic debut while Azerbaijan secured three titles on the second day of Tokyo 2020 judo competition (28 August) at the Nippon Budokan.
World Championships bronze medallist Valiyeva ground out a surprising victory against Uzbekistan’s Parvina Samandarova. The 23-year-old kept her nerve and ran the clock down to win by waza-ari.
In 2018, Valiyeva placed 10th at a world championships. Three years later, she became a Paralympic champion.
"Back then I was competing in the 52kg category and I honestly did not feel comfortable enough competing in that weight so I consulted with my coaches and they decided that putting on some weight can sometimes be beneficial.
"This weight is better for me. I feel more confident in this category, and this is the reason that I could be the champion here."
Valiyeva was inspired by judo teammates Shahana Hajiyeva and Vugar Shirinli, who had taken gold in their respective categories a day before.
"That gave me really big motivation but the thing is we all believed that we are able to do that.
"We didn't have a lack of confidence in us. We were believing in ourselves and all of us had great motivation. So there was only one thing left - to go on the tatami and to finish this."
It was a glorious Saturday (August 28) for the Azerbaijani judo team as Khanim Huseynova also won her first Paralympic medal with a waza-ari against 2016 silver medallist Iryna Husieva of Ukraine in the women's -63kg.
Huseynova fighting Husieva Ⓒ Getty Images
The country's third gold came through Huseyn Rahimli in the men's up to 81kg after beating Uzbekistan’s Davurkhon Karomatov.