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Christa Deguchi confirms Olympic form

Christa Deguchi confirms Olympic form

11 May 2024 00:05
IJF - Gabi Juan / International Judo Federation

In Kazakhstan, only Christa Deguchi stands as a formidable challenger, and her almost flawless dominance faced a new challenge as the brackets unfolded. The anticipation surrounding Judo Canada's selection for the Olympic Games seems to amplify with each event, as the saga unfolds with new faces and phases, leaving predictions in a constant state of flux.

Awaiting Deguchi in the semi-finals was Haruka Funakubo, Japan’s Olympic representative this summer. While the outcome was unpredictable, it was a tactically sound victory for the Canadian. Although not the most spectacular bout of the day, Deguchi's diverse array of techniques proved effective, securing a win by shido, a pragmatic choice amidst the intensity. The move into the final marked a crucial step in Deguchi's campaign, reaffirming her prowess against the best in the world.

Despite Deguchi's long-standing lead and current world champion status, Klimkait consistently secures medals at every appearance, contrasting Deguchi's occasional faltering in the early rounds. While the World Ranking Lists may highlight Deguchi's dominance, the complete results list offers a clearer picture of the competition. With both athletes at the pinnacle of the category and boasting world judo titles, the race remains neck-and-neck. Klimkait's proven ability to medal at the Games adds further intrigue to the Canadian selectors' decision.

Christa Deguchi was perfect in all five of her bouts at the Almaty Grand Slam in Kazakhstan. The 28-year-old capped her day off on Friday with a victory in the big final over Brazil’s Rafaela Silva, who received three shidos during the clash.

In late April, Deguchi lost to the same Silva in the final of the Pan-American and Oceania Championships, in a match that lasted over nine minutes. But today in Almaty, the Canadian exacted her revenge.

“Christa fought very well. She and the Brazilian often compete against each other, and I think Christa is very happy to have won this time. She was very dominant, which forced her opponent to cheat a bit, and therefore receive those penalties. Christa’s stance was great, her hand placement was very good, and she attacked at the right times,” explained Canadian coach Antoine Valois-Fortier.

For Deguchi, the match against Silva also held particular significance, as she is currently preparing for the World Championships and the Paris Olympics. Silva currently sits in seventh place in the under-57 kg world rankings, while the Canadian holds the top spot, just ahead of her compatriot Jessica Klimkait.

“I think the fact that she’s looking so confident and dominant just a few days ahead of the Worlds, and a few weeks from the Olympics, is a great sign. She’s fought some tough athletes, and she’s ready for her next challenges,” added Valois-Fortier.

Reflecting on her victory, Christa emphasized its significance, particularly in terms of the selection criteria for the Olympic Games. The strategic and committed performance of Cysique in the bronze medal contest further underscored the caliber of competition present.

This was the second consecutive Grand Slam gold medal for Christa Deguchi, who also won in Antalya, Turkey, in March.

The PanAmerican rematch between Deguchi and Silva in the final encapsulated the essence of champions clashing, with awareness, strategy, and intelligence echoing from the center of the tatami. While penalties ultimately decided the outcome, the closely fought battle highlighted the captivating nature of the encounter. Christa Deguchi emerged with a crucial gold, while Silva added another accolade to her impressive collection.

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