France’s Clarisse Agbegnenou is one of the greatest champions in the history of judo and she proved that again when she beat the reigning Olympic titleholder in the women’s -63kg class at Tokyo 2020. It was arguably her sweetest victory.
In a re-run of the Rio 2016 final, the five-time world champion and three-time European champion took sweet revenge on title-holder Slovenia’s Tina Trstenjak, who beat her five years earlier into silver.
The 28-year-old came out fighting from the start and did not relent until the judo -63kg crown was hers at the Nippon Budokan in Japan’s capital on 27 July.
But Trstenjak did not give up without a fight. The bout went to a golden score and it took a waza-ari for Agbegnenou to take down the 30-year-old, who is also a reigning European champion.
The French judoka screamed and wept with delight at the end of the bout and even lifted her opponent in the air as her monumental achievement sunk in: she had now won every major title in her class.
In the bronze medal matches Italy’s Maria Centracchio, 26, beat Nederland’s, Juul Franssen. It was a tough battle that went to a golden score before Centracchio overpowered the 31-year-old with an ippon.
The second bronze was awarded to 2020 Pan-American champion Canada’s Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard, 27, who beat silver medallist in that Games, Venezuela’s Anriquelis Barrios, 27. It was another golden score, but this time it ended in a waza-ari.
Speaking at a press conference later, Agbegnenou said about her opponent Trestenjak: “We will have a lot of time to celebrate this, to enjoy this, because things like this are very rare in a life.”
“Tina and I have known each other for a long time. She’s an athlete, she’s very strong. We have very strong ties, as well, because she is externally and internally a wonderful person, and we have always thought what happens on the tatami, stays on the tatami.”
On her role as a flagbearer for France at the Opening Ceremony, she added: “This was a magnificent experience, to represent and be the flagbearer for France. All the really good energy, good vibes, that was extended to us. It was a celebration. It was a party. It was unexpected we could go.
“This has been the best moment, well, second best, because probably winning would be the best.”