Gibbons has gold in her sights

02 August 2012 / 12:38

Greenwich fighter Gemma Gibbons was in with a chance of landing Britain's first judo Olympic medal since 2000 after battling through to the semi-finals of the under-78kg division at ExCeL.

In a boost for Team GB's judokas, Gibbons produced three hard-fought victories to give herself hope of reaching the gold medal fight.

Gibbons, 25, has recovered from a shoulder injury and only just stepped up a weight division this year, winning the British Open and silver medals at World Cups in Romania and Estonia.

Roared on by the home crowd at North Arena 2, Gibbons knocked out Yahima Ramirez of Portugal, the 2011 European bronze medallist, by an ippon score. That set up a clash against Mongolia's Lkhamdegd Purevjargal, the seventh seed.

The Metro Judo Club fighter was soon on the back foot against a much bigger opponent, and picked up a penalty midway through the five-minute contest. But out of nothing, Gibbons produced a Yuko score as she flipped her opponent on to her side to lead heading into the final 90 seconds.

Purevjargal continued to press as Gibbons tired. With seven seconds left, both fighters tumbled claiming a score, which the referees awarded to the Mongolian for a Yuko to level. The North Arena 2 was in uproar but erupted again in joy moments later as Gibbons somehow produced a lightning throw herself to seal a 2-1 victory and a place in the quarter-finals.

Next up was Dutchwoman Marhinde Verkerk, who beat Japan number two seed Akari Ogata. There was a large Oranje contingent in, but their hopes for gold with world number two Henk Grol had just been ended by a shock defeat to unfancied German Dimitri Peters.

This was a much-more evenly matched physical contest for Gibbons, who studies at the nearby University of East London. Gibbons fell to the mat midway through the contest clutching her shoulder, but was able to continue as chants of "Gemma, Gemma" rang out around the 7,000-capacity venue.

There was no score heading into the final minute and a half of an evenly-balanced contest. With just 10 seconds to go, Gibbons produced a reverse leg sweep to land what had initially been an ippon, but was then downgraded to a 10-point wazari. That, though, was still enough to send her into the semi-finals and a shot at the gold medal fight later this afternoon.

Gibbons will face Audrey Tcheumeo of France, the 2011 world champion, while the other semi-final will be contested by American Kayla Harrison and top seed Mayra Aguiar of Brazil.