February 24 - Britain's Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons marked her return to top-level competition with victory in second International Judo Federation Grand Prix here today.
The 26-year-old battled through a broken thumb to claim -78kg silver at London 2012 last summer and made her first competitive appearance since then at the British Championships last month.
She marked the occasion by winning the -78 kilogram title for the first time and, moving from domestic competition to international, Gibbons was again victorious at the Düsseldorf Grand Prix.
Gibbons defeated home hope Julia Tillmanns first up and then Slovenia's Annemarie Velensek before seeing off Holland's Marhinde Verkerk, who she met in the quarter-finals at London 2012.
She faced Japan's Ruika Sato in the final, taking an early lead by waza-ari and yuko and winning the contest and her first IJF World Tour event with an ippon by uchi mata with 12 seconds left.
"It was great to win and to hear the national anthem play for me for the first time was amazing," said Gibbons.
"I was really pleased I was able to perform at this level and execute some great judo.
"It's been six months since I have fought against some of the best players in the world and to come away with the gold gives me great confidence going forward to the Turkey GP and the European Championships."
Kate Howey, British Judo's lead women's coach, who was matside for the competition praised Gibbons' determination.
"Gemma fought really well today throwing the Japanese with a fantastic uchi mata in the final," she said.
"This was a great performance back at this level having time out to recover from her thumb operation after the games.
"It proves to her and the rest of the the judo world that the Olympics was not a fluke and she can win at this level.
"This will give her so much confidence going forward to Rio ."
There was another victory for Holland's Kim Polling, who who scored one of the upsets of the tournament at the Paris Grand Prix earlier this month in the -70kg category when she beat France's London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Lucie Decosse with a spectacular ippon.
This time she beat Germany's Laura Vargas Koch with a tremendous hip movement, starting with arai-goshi and finishing with a uchi-mata for an ippon.
Brazil's Suelen Altheman, who will be one of the hosts main hopes for success at Rio 2016, gave her early preparations a boost by winning the +78kg section with victory in the final over
France's Emilie Andeol.
Altheman's strategy was clear: wait for Andeol's attacks and counterattack them with strong ura-nage.
Andeol was clearly on top, scoring waza-ari, but twice penalised giving the lead to Altheman, who managed to keep it until the end of the final.
The men's bouts were dominated by Georgian judokas, who claimed two gold and two silver medals during an unforgettable afternoon for them.
Levan Tsiklauri pulled off a major sock in the semi-final of the -81kg with victory over South Korea's world and Olympic champion Kim Jae-Bum by yuko in the semi-final.
But then in the final he met compatriot Avtandil Tchrikishvili, the London 2012 bronze medallist, who proved too strong.
There was another gold in the -90kg category for Georgia thanks to European champion Varlam Liparteliani, who beat Brazil's Tiago Camilo.
An early ippon during a counter-attack was changed to a waza-ari, but that proved to be enough for Liparteliani to celebrate a second consecutive Grand Prix victory having also won in Paris.
Georgia's final medal came in the +100kg where Adam Okruashvili took silver following a final won by Japan's Masaru Momoe, who executed a perfect tai-otoshi for ippon.
The remaining gold medal of the Grand Prix was won by France's Cyrille Maret, who overcame Japan's Takashi Ono in the -100kg thanks to a waza-ari.
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