Sally Conway Wins Paris Grand Slam Gold
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Sally Conway Wins Paris Grand Slam GoldPosted: 12/02/2018
Sally Conway was crowned 2018 Paris Grand Slam champion after an outstanding day of judo on Sunday 11 February.
In doing so the -70kg judoka became only the sixth British fighter to win the Paris tournament, the first since Craig Fallon in 2003 and the first British women since Kate Howey MBE in 1997.
The Rio 2016 bronze medallist had won Paris bronze in 2016 and started her day with a solid win over France's Melissa Heleine (FRA).
She threw the younger judoka for ippon with a minute and a half left having controlled large parts of the contest.
World No.6 Anna Bernholm (SWE) was next up in the round of 16 and the Swedish judoka had won a number of big medals in 2017 including Abu Dhabi Grand Slam gold.
The British judoka though put in a very professional performance, eventually winning with a late waza-ari in the last minute.
2017 World silver medallist Maria Perez (PUR) had beaten Conway the last time they’d met and it was another tough contest for the British judoka.
The fight went into golden score with both fighters having enjoyed periods of dominance. After over a minute of golden score Conway showed great determination to apply juji-gatame (arm lock) and forced Perez to tap.
This put Conway into the semi-finals where she faced French judoka and World No.3 Marie Eve Gahie, who was guaranteed to have the vast majority of the capacity crowd on her side.
The tall and powerful French fighter looked dangerous in the standing exchanges but Conway always looked like she’d have a chance in newaza.
Eventually she saw her chance after a weak attack by Gahie and was able to secure the hold down for ippon.
This meant that Conway was the first British judoka into a Paris final since 2004, when Sarah Clark won silver.
World No.1 Chizuru Arai had beaten Conway in their two contests to date and the current World Champion was favourite going into the final.
Conway though put in a good, tactical performance and both judoka had chance to score in an exciting final.
In the final minute Arai went for a big attack which Conway defended well. The British judoka continued to move though and rolled Arai to ground and secured the hold down, ending the contest with 20 seconds to go. This also meant that British Judo ended the competition with three medals in total after Nekoda Smythe-Davis and Ashley McKenzie won bronze a day earlier.
Speaking afterwards Conway was understandably delighted with her result and pointed to a long period of preparation for this event as being key:
“I don’t think it’s even really sunk in yet. I’ve just come off the podium and listened to the national anthem in this amazing Bercy Stadium and it was just the best feeling ever.
“I think my preparation started last year when I did five weeks, six weeks in Japan and I felt like my judo come on really well. I felt like the improvements I needed to make were coming
“Then again in Mittersill this year I just felt like I was throwing a lot more, I was kind of clear on what I needed to do. I think that gave me a lot of confidence coming into this event.”