Yarden Gerbi, the 2013 world judo champion and seven-time Israeli titleholder, defeated Miku Tashiro of Japan to win the Olympic bronze medal in the women’s under-63 kilogram (139 pound) class Tuesday. She is the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal since windsurfer Shahar Tzuberi won a bronze medal in windsurfing in 2008.
The 27-year-old from Netanya, returning to the city where she won her world championship, scored a yuko and a waza-ari by throwing Tashiro to the ground twice within 30 seconds.
Gerbi advanced to the medal round by defeating 16th-ranked Maricet Esposa of Cuba by completing an ippon and throwing Espinosa on her back. She was then upset by Brazilian Mariana Silva in a controversial decision—former judoka Yael Arad, the first Israeli ever to have won an Olympic medal when she won bronze in 1992, told reporters that judges, possibly influenced by the hometown crowd, “stole” Gerbi’s victory by not penalizing Silva for stalling. Undaunted by the controversy, Gerbi went on to vanquish 12th-ranked Yang Junxia with a hip throw waza-ari with less than a minute remaining to reach the bronze medal round.
Other Israeli judokas have not had as much luck at the Rio games. Sagi Muki lost the bronze medal match on Monday, and Golan Pollack, who won the bronze at last year’s world championships, was upset less than two minutes into the first round by Mathews Punza of Zambia, who is ranked 112th in the world.
The Tower Magazine’s August 2016 photo essay documents the journeys of Gerbi and other Israeli Olympians.
[Photo: Yarden Gerbi / Instagram]