Yarden Gerbi came up just short in her attempt to defend her title at the World Judo Championships on Thursday, winning a silver medal in the under-63 kilogram competition after losing to Clarisse Agbegnenou in the final in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Thursday’s showdown between the good friends was a repeat of last year’s final won by the Israeli. However, Gerbi couldn’t contain her French rival in Chelyabinsk, suffering an ippon after just oneand- a-half minutes.
Nevertheless, she joined Yael Arad (1991 - bronze, 1993 - silver) as the only Israelis to claim multiple medals at the World Judo Championships, an especially impressive achievement considering Gerbi’s 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, including in Tyumen, Russia just last month.
However, she looked extremely sharp from the start of the day in Chelyabinsk, overcoming Ana Cachola of Portugal with an ippon in her first fight before also defeating Maylin Del Toro Carvajal of Cuba and Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia with judo’s equivalent of a knockout, requiring just 29 seconds to beat the latter.
In the semifinals, Gerbi found herself in an early deficit, but she ultimately got the better of Japan’s rising star Miku Tashiro, recording an ippon after pinning her opponent to the mat for 20 seconds to secure a medal.
“After the year I had any medal is great, but when you reach a final you really want to win the gold, so I guess I’m feeling mixed emotions,” said Gerbi, who dedicated her medal to the Israeli people, the IDF and the residents of the South of Israel. “My coach told me that I should enter the championships like a wounded animal and give my all. I proved to myself that I rise to the occasion in big events. There are still two more years until the Olympics and I still haven’t peaked.”