Israeli judoka Yarden Gerbi sustained a string of decisive victories in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday to become the first Israeli to ever win gold at a World Championships meet.
The 24-year-old, who has been enjoying a terrific year on the international circuit, won four straight bouts before beating out Clarisse Agbegnenou, the European champion, in the finals.
Gerbi competes in the 63-kilogram category. She emerged victorious from her match with Agbegnenou after pinning her opponent to the mat and executing a powerful choke hold with her legs.
As she stood on the podium, Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva,” playing in the background, Gerbi was visibly moved.
“I’m so happy that it really ended this way,” she later told Ynet. “I had a great competition… Nothing can be better than this… I cried a little for my parents; they also cried.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Gerbi to congratulate her, describing her medal as a “fantastic achievement” and praising her “swift, elegant” victory in the finals bout, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
In a phone call, President Shimon Peres invited her to the President’s Residence on her return, and told her she had prevailed through a combination of “wisdom, clarity and strength.” Gerbi was “a real pistol,” the president said.
Israel has seen significant success from its judokas, both male and female, over the past two decades, including three Olympic medals, the last of which, of the bronze denomination, was won by Arik Zeevi in the 2004 games.
Israelis have won World Championships medals before, but never the coveted gold.