Judo: Bronze is a dream come true for evergreen Bryant

 

ExCel Centre

The colour may have been bronze, but it was worth its weight in gold for Karina Bryant and for British judo, which has finally picked itself up off the Olympic mat.

A medal here was all the 33-year-old Surrey heavyweight had ever wanted to round off a career as the British sport's most decorated competitor, and it came gloriously at her fourth, and probably last, Games when she won her bronze match in spectacular fashion against Iryna Kindzerska of Ukraine.

So in less than 24 hours British judo – like Bryant's weeping, four-stones heavier opponent yesterday – had been turned upside down and the medal tally doubled overnight, with the popular Bryant joyously kissing her coach and being embraced afterwards by the entire 14-strong team. There was a special hug from Gemma Gibbons who, on Thursday, had ended a 12-year medal drought with silver in the light-heavyweights (under 78kg).

Bryant had earlier missed her chance to try for the gold Britain has never won when she lost her semi-final to Japan's second seed Mika Sugimoto, being edged out by two penalty points. For bronze she put the huge Ukrainian on her back with a second wazari score, capping a remarkable comeback after going behind to a wazari and yuko.

Out for six months last year with a neck injury, Bryant, winner of six World Championship medals and four times a European champion, had booked her place in that semi-final with a dramatic 1-0 win over Kazakhstan's Gulzhan Issanova. On the way she had beaten Lucija Polavder of Slovenia and Algeria's Sonia Asselah.

Bryant had clearly benefited from a month-long training camp in Japan at the start of a year she had intimated could be her last in judo. "Deep down in my heart I wanted to go out there and do myself justice," she said. "I have had an amazing career, but this was the one medal I did not have. It is not the right colour but it is gold to me, because I could not have done any more."

Christopher Sherrington joined the long list of vanquished British men, however, losing to the Russian Alexander Mikhaylin in the last 16 after earlier beating his Australian opponent Jake Andrewartha in just 24 seconds.

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