Chelsie Giles claimed her first Grand Slam medal of her career with an assured display of judo on the first day of competition at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
The young Brit has had a breakout year on the mat which has saw her pick up her maiden Grand Prix medals earlier this year and this weekend saw her go one better.
An accomplished performance in the Bronze medal contest against Israel’s Gefen Primo saw Giles take her spot on the podium. The two had not met since the Junior European Championships which saw Primo claim the win on that occasion. With revenge on Giles’ mind, she was faced with a number of openings during the contest but just lacked a killer instinct in certain situations. With just 10 seconds left of regulation time, Giles registered a waza-ari to hand the young Brit the medal and added further to her growing credentials as one to watch out for in the -52kg weight category.
Giles commented “I think I fought well today and I was on point with my fight plans. I was really please with the contest against Kelmendi as I only lost on shidos and in Golden Score. I am happy that I have 500 points towards Olympic Qualification and won my first Grand Slam medal”
Coach Kate Howey was impressed with Giles’ performance today, “Chelsie fought well today and was very composed in each fight. She gave the Olympic Champion a very good fight and she will use this as a marker going forward. This is Chelsie’s first Grand Slam medal and she is picking medals up at the right time as they are all going towards Olympic qualification.”
Giles received a bye in the opening round of the competition and opened up with a contest against Hong Kong’s Shuk Ki Tsui. It was a tentative affair from both judoka throughout the contest. It wasn’t until the closing minutes that Giles spotted an opening on her opponent and took full advantage to work her to the mat. It was enough to secure a waza-ari and she did well to keep her opponent subdued on the mat to take home the win.
That win moved Giles into the Quarter Finals and set up a tie against Switzerland’s Evelyne Tschopp. The Swiss athlete is the World No.12 and won Bronze at the recent Cancun Grand Prix. The pair had met once previously with Tschopp coming out on top at the Budapest Grand Prix. A tentative start once again from Giles with Coach Kate Howey urging her forward, Tschopp looked to be on top. She adopted a lapel grip in an attempt to negate Tschopp and it paid dividends. The contest went all the way into Golden Score and just 30 seconds into the extra period, Giles struck! She spotted an opening to register uchi-mata to set up a semi final against the Olympic Champion!
Kosovo’s Majlinda Kelmendi has not competed since November 2017 and took a blow during the early stages of competition that forced her to take a medical timeout during the contest. The Olympic Gold medallist drew Giles’ head down in the exchanges numerous times in an attempt to unsettle the Brits balance. Giles picked up shidos regularly throughout the contest as Kelmendi’s experience showed as the Brit picked up a third shido in Golden Score.