Yarden Gerbi said her ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal in Rio in two years, but insisted she is still not thinking that far ahead after receiving a hero’s welcome at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday.
Gerbi won a silver medal in the under-63 kilogram competition at the World Judo Championships last Thursday, coming up just short in her attempt to defend her title in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Despite losing to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France in a repeat of last year’s final, Gerbi joined Yael Arad (1991 - bronze, 1993 - silver) as the only Israelis to claim multiple medals at the World Judo Championships, an especially impressive accomplishment considering her struggles this year.
The 25-year-old had lost in her opening bout at the European Championships in April, losing to a judoka ranked 102 places below her, while also falling at the first hurdle in both her Grand Slam appearances this year.
“I said after the final that I’m feeling mixed emotions, but I can say now that I am more happy than disappointed,” she explained upon her return to Israel with the rest of the judo delegation.
“I arrived at the championships after a poor year in which I lost a lot more than in previous years. You never settle for a silver after you reach a final, but the fight didn’t unfold as I had hoped. All in all, I’m very happy. To reach the world championships final two years in a row is far from a given.”
When asked about the Rio Olympics, Gerbi said that her “goal in every competition is to win a medal” and that she is optimistic she will be able to overcome Agbegnenou should the two meet again in a big final.
“I proved to myself that even when I’m going through a poor period I can still excel on a given day,” said Gerbi, who revealed she had entered the championships a little rattled after dreaming the night prior to her competition that she would lose in the first round.