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Monday, April 15, 2024

Anna-Maria Wagner back with Grand Prix gold

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Both women have incredible careers, which have come together only 5 times in total but those meetings have been evenly distributed through the years and also in terms of the results. It is exactly a decade since their first meeting and prior to the 2023 Upper Austria Grand Prix the tally sat at 3-2 in favour of Malonga.Two years ago Anna-Maria Wagner (GER) and Madeleine Malonga (FRA) met in the final of the world championships in Hungary. The contest yielded a red back patch for the German and a silver medal for the French 2019 world champion. A clash of champions in the final in Linz.In the bronze medal contests, Lytvynenko, in order to reach the podium, would have to get past Sugimura, the Japanese judoka Kurchenko threw for waza-ari in the quarter-final, whereas Kurchenko had a Dutch opponent.Before reaching the final in Linz, each had to find a route through potentially difficult semi-finals, both against Ukrainians who had obliterated their respective quarters of the draw. Both Kurchenko on Wagner’s top half and Lytvynenko on Malonga’s bottom half of the sheet, threw with power and conviction and looked set to meet one another in the final. The world champions found that an unacceptable proposition and dealt with it accordingly.The battle of the world champions was high caliber indeed but inside the first minute Wagner threw with o-uchi-gari and a score was given. On review there was not quite the right angle in the landing and so they went back to the start but to ensure the victory, in a strong tussle with both attacking furiously, Wagner managed to apply the same technique again and this time with the impact leaving no doubt. Anna-Maria Wagner makes it 3-3 and adds a second gold in a row to her CV following her win in Tbilisi only weeks ago.The first of those two contests saw an even but all-action bout with both athletes doing all they could to throw. In terms of style it was a classic left versus right situation with the Japanese looking for the inside, while Lytvynenko was happy to grapple at close quarters. Despite the positions they put themselves in throughout, the right-handed Ukrainian made the choice to change tactics in the golden score period and employed a right de-ashi-barai but then switched sides and turned in on the left, surprising Sugimua, taking the bronze medal with a waza-ari score.Bronze medal number two went to the Dutch competitor. Derks brought powerful judo to the tatami in Linz and against an equally strong opponent, Kurchenko, she continued in the same way, foiling every pick-up and hip throw the Ukrainian had to offer. Eventually Derks scored but in all honesty, the contest never looked like it was painted in the yellow in blue. Congratulations to Lieke Derks (NED), number one in the world for juniors and now a Grand Prix medallist for the first time.

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