It was a successful Saint Dwynwen’s Day for Wales’ golden girl Natalie Powell as she topped the medal table at the Judo Tel Aviv Grand Prix after defeating Bernadette Graf to win gold in the -78kg category.
Returning from British Judo’s World Class Performance Programme to move back to Wales to be coached by Darren Warner at the National Judo Centre appears to be paying dividends as the 2017 World Championships bronze medallist safely navigated her way through all five contests.
Not only did the Grand prix win see Powell standing firmly on top of the podium in Israel, but also meant she picked up valuable Olympic qualification points ahead of the Tokyo Games this summer. Speaking to the BBC earlier in the week, Powell said, “I really do believe I can win it [Olympic gold] if I perform my best. Everybody around me is doing the best job and if I can’t win it with this team, there’s no chance really. If I got a medal, I’d also be really pleased – but I’m going there to win it.”
Powell’s victories over Unelle Snyman, Giorgia Stangherlin and Aleksandra Babintseva, and Luise Malzahn showed truth in her recent statement as she said she is currently “technically the best” she has been.
Powell continued her dominance in the last four with a convincing victory over the German, before easing past Graf in the final to improve on her second-place finish at the Brasilia Grand Slam in 2019.
Powell has started 2020 as she means to go on, in dominant fashion following two bronze medals at the Tashkent and Budapest Grand Prix at the end of last year. The Grand Prix gold marked her first major triumph for since the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
Powell’s will next compete in Morocco at the Rabat Grand Prix in March, with once again Tokyo at the forefront of her mind.