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Persistence pays off, as Haecker wins Aussie-first Judo Grand Slam medal

30 October 2018

JUDO: Aussie Judoka and Rio Olympian, Katharina Haecker has created history for her sport over the weekend, claiming Australia’s first ever medal on the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam circuit at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

The 26-year-old's performances have gone from strength to strength this year, beating injury and setbacks before steadily rising to claim her history-making moment.

It was only two weeks ago that Haecker shared her disappointment on social media, after missing out on her third bronze medal match at the Cancun Grand Prix, where she was seeded number one. 

“Sadly, that was the third time this year I missed out on winning the bronze medal contest.  

Next stop will be the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, another opportunity to show what I’m capable of!” the five-time Oceania Champion said. 

Haecker took full advantage of her next opportunity and showed that persistence pays off when she defeated Poland’s Agata Ozdoba-Blach for ippon (one full point) with a koshi-guruma (hip wheel) after 62 seconds of nail-biting golden-score extra time. 

The 2014 Commonwealth Games athlete won three fights, taking down two world medallists to claim her bronze medal prize, and on World Judo Day, for good measure.

Judo Australia’s Technical Director, Maria Pekli said of Haecker’s performance, 

“Katharina has worked extremely hard and developed into a competitive world-level athlete, this result further enforces that. I’m very excited to see how much better she can get.” 

Currently, Haecker is Australia’s highest ranked Judo athlete, placing seventh at the World Championships in Azerbaijan, with her most recent result providing her with valuable Olympic qualification points. 

Haecker’s Olympic debut was at Rio 2016, where she squared up against Laura Salles Lopez of Andorra, winning by ippon after just over a minute.  

She was unable to replicate her result in her second contest, going down to Japan’s Miku Tashiro by ippon, placing ninth overall, but she is primed and ready to give her all to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

During 2018, Haecker placed first at the Oceania Championships and Australian Championships, acquired two fifth places, a third place and a second place at various Grand Prix events along with another fifth place finish at the European Open. 

The Tashkent Grand Prix and Osaka Grand Slam will take place in November, followed by the Invitational Masters in December, with each event edging her closer to Olympic qualification. 

You can follow Katharina’s journey HERE

Liana Buratti
olympics.com.au

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