With one determined throw, flattening the Russian champion Tea Dongouzachvili, Karina Bryant proclaimed in the heavyweight final of the European judo championships here yesterday that she is back on top again.
Her decisive performance, which put two years of poor results behind her, helped Britain to one of its best European results for some years, concluding with a gold, a silver and two bronzes.
For Bryant, 24, from Camberley Judo Club, this was a make-or-break event. She had been so much the wunderkind, with world and European junior titles and then two senior European titles, that the highest honours appeared to be waiting for her to take them. But her career went into sudden decline in the run-up to the Sydney Olympics, where she failed to take a medal.
However, yesterday a rejuvenated Bryant was in action. She began with a no-nonsense win over Françoise Harteveld, of the Netherlands, throwing her with a foot sacrifice technique then clamping on a hold to finish the matter. Susan Somolinos, of Spain, lasted only 27 seconds, capitulating to a crushing counter when she attempted to attack.
Yet Bryant knew the real test was to come. Dongouzachvili had beaten her comprehensively in their two previous encounters, once with a throw at the 2002 European Championships and once with a hold when they met last December in Japan.
"I felt more confident this time because I felt I was on a mission," Bryant said. "Even though I had lost before, I knew she was within my capabilities."
But it did not look like it at the start, as Dongouzachvili opened the scorecard with a rear throw for five points. Bryant got up, unfazed, waited for the next attack and skilfully turned her opponent on her axis and swept her to the mat for ippon, judo's perfect score. There was simply no doubt about it. "That counter is a risk – if I get the timing wrong I will be thrown myself," Bryant said, "but I knew it was the right thing to do."
Her last major medal was a bronze in the world championships in 2001 but, with this year's renewal in Osaka only five months away, Bryant has shown she is ready.
In the lightweight division, Sophie Cox was among the bronzes for Britain.Reuse content