Assmaa Niang sets record with Continental Open gold in Dakar
Last weekend Dakar hosted the 2023 Judo Championships. The bustling city served as the usual backdrop for this African clash of champions from diverse corners of the world. The U63kg category witnessed a double celebration from Senegal with Florence Mendy. In the U70kg division, Morocco's Assmaa Niang showcased judo mastery with an impressive display despite being 40 years young.
The Moroccan judoka, initially competed for France before switching to chase her Olympic aspirations, is now the oldest World Cup winner of all time, older than Ilse Heylen (38 in 2016 who won the African Open in Casablanca.
Niang clinched the Grand Prix title in Düsseldorf U70kg in 2014 and secured five African titles. Her victories continued with many African Open titles and in the IJF World Tour such as a bronze medal at the Grand Prix in Zagreb in 2018. At the 2018 World Championships in Baku, she finished fifth. Niang claimed bronze at the Grand Slam of Ekaterinburg in 2019. Remarkably, at 38, she competed in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Continuing her success, this, she already took a silver medal at the European Open in Rome 2023 and secured gold at the African Open in Dakar to emphasize her unique fighting spirit.
Marie Celine Baba Matia from Cameroon stole the show in the U52kg category with gold and she is just 19 years and the youngest winner of last weekend, more than twice younger than Niang.
Malin Wilson from Great Britain emerged triumphant in the U57kg division against Ivory Coast's Zouleiha Abzetta Dabonne who took silver.
The U48kg category witnessed Paraguay's Gabriela Narvaez captivating audiences with her swift and calculated maneuvers, securing the gold. Priscilla Morand from Mauritius exhibited impeccable skill, earning silver for Morand who lives in Switzerland.
Cameroon's Georgika Wesly Djengue Moune dominated the U78kg category, exhibiting unmatched skill, followed closely by Hafsa Yatim from Morocco. Senegal's Monica Sagna triumphed in the O78kg division.
Shifting the focus to the men's division, the U60kg division witnessed a gripping showdown between Simon Zulu from Zambia and Felipe Dacruz representing Liberia. Zulu’s lightning-fast moves and Dacruz's strategic prowess left spectators on the edge of their seats. Ultimately, Zulu clinched the gold.
Moving up the weight classes, the U66kg category saw Steven Mungandu who exhibited judo finesse overpowering opponents with a seamless blend of technique as well as in the final against Harouna Keita from Senegal who took silver.
Cole Chandler from the USA proved his mettle in the U73kg category, dominating with remarkable agility and precision. Tanzania's Andrew Thomas Mlugu put up a commendable fight, earning a noteworthy second place.
The competition intensified in the U81kg division as Kissouli Khaled Axel Konate of Burundi defeated the experienced Cedrick Kalonga from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the final.
As the weight categories rose, so did the intensity. Abderahmane Diao of Senegal showcased judo prowess in the U90kg category, outmaneuvering his compatriot Ryan Dacosta for gold.
In the heavier divisions, Koffi Kreme Kobena (aged 35) of Ivory Coast demonstrated sheer power and technique in the U100kg category, dominating the field with finesse. Insiders know Kobena is everywhere at African events.