NATALIE Powell became the first British top ranked female judoka in history this week.
The 27 year old from Beulah near Builth Wells rose to the top of the world rankings after winning -78kg gold at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last weekend.
The gold represented Powell’s maiden Grand Slam victory and ensured the Irfon Judo Club star rose to the top of the world rankings.
Powell was in sensational form, beating Israel’s Yarden Meyersohn before overcoming world No3 Guusje Steenhuis of Holland in the semi-finals.
The final represented a rematch of her bronze medal contest from the 2017 World Championships in Budapest with Powell taking on Holland’s Marhinde Verkerk.
In another tactical contest, Powell’s superior gripping and power repeatedly forced Verkerk on the defensive.
With half of the contest gone Verkerk had picked up two shidos as she struggled to match Powell who held firm to take gold.
“I was really pleased with the result,” said Powell. “I’ve been in a heavy strength block and I felt the extra strength helped. It feels pretty cool being world number one.
“I'm really happy I've managed to achieve my dream. It's been 19 years of hard work but we got there in the end.
“I have to stay there now, that'll be the challenge. It's to stay the number one until the end of the year because there's a prize for the person who stays there at the end of the year.
“There's still three competitions left and I need to stay ahead of everyone in those competitions.”
Powell's next target is World and European success in 2018 with the long term aim of winning the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will head to Japan this week to prepare for the end of season Masters in Russia in December.
“I’m now looking forward to going to Japan for a few weeks of training to build on my technique and intensity before the competitions at the end of the year.”
Kate Howey, GB Senior Elite Performance Coach, praised Powell’s performance.
“Natalie fought really well today and showed real class both mentally and physically. She has been on a heavy weights block and this showed on the mat.” said Howey. “Tactically she showed real maturity in beating both Dutch girls.
“She now has the next month in Japan preparing for it and to fine tune everything she is working on. I am really pleased for her.”