Daria Bilodid: How sports anger drove me to my second consecutive world title

Ukraine's teen sensation beat Funa Tonaki in a repeat of last year's final to become the youngest judoka to retain an individual title at 2019 World Championships in Tokyo

By Alessandro Poggi

What drives judo's double world champion Daria Bilodid during a fight?

The answer is: sports anger.

The Ukrainian teenager claimed her second consecutive gold medal at the World Judo Championships in Tokyo after defeating home favourite Funa Tonaki in a very close women's -48kg final at the Nippon Budokan.

Bilodid beat the Japanese in last year's final in Baku to extend her head-to-head record to 4-0.

On her first appearance in the birthplace of judo, the 18-year-old double champion said of her opponent, "I understand why she's disappointed, but I really wanted to win this medal.

"My goal is always the same - to win." - Daria Bilodid speaking after securing back-to-back -48kg world titles

Daria Bilodid applies a tight holddown during the semifinal match against Mongolia's Urantsetseg Munkhbat.

Strangling like a snake

Bilodid's aggressive style and the way she locks rivals up using her long legs has earned her a special nickname.

"Many people think I fight like an anaconda," she revealed with a smile.

"But I just want to be angry and aggressive and I don't want to fight like any animal, only like Daria Bilodid!"

While she is ferocious on the mat, the Kyiv native admits she's a very different person outside of judo.

"I'm very angry and I have a very good concentration when I fight.

"Maybe in life I'm more shy, but in judo and in competition I think I need to be aggressive and keep my mind in good form."

Daria Bilodid poses with her gold medal on the podium.

Record breaker

Bilodid has become the first judoka to win two consecutive world titles in an individual event before turning 19.

Last year she was the youngest athlete ever to become world champion.

At this rate, she could equal and perhaps overtake the record of Ryoko Tani (nee Tamura).

The retired two-time Olympic champion is the most successful female judoka in history with seven world titles.

So what mark does Daria want to leave in judo's history?

"I try just to train and do my best and I prefer not to think about records," she answered dismissively.

"For now my goal is the Olympic Games, we will see" - Daria Bilodid

Tears of joy for Daria Bilodid after succesfully retaining her world title.

Feet on the ground

Bilodid came to this World Championships as the second seed.

In March, she suffered her first defeat since 2017 to France's Melanie Clement in the Grand Prix of Tbilisi.

The Ukrainian redeemed herself in June by taking the European Games title in Minsk, Belarus.

On her way to gold in Tokyo, she overcame Portugal's Catarina Costa, Sariuna Tsyzhipova from the Refugee Olympic Team, Spain's Laura Martinez Abelenda and world number three Urantsetseg Munkhbat of Mongolia.

Munkhbat took bronze along with Kosovo's Distria Krasnaqi.

This victory cements Bilodid's position as a superstar of the sport and she is arguably the face of women's judo.

But she's determined not to let the limelight change her.

"I feel the same. I am like all judokas. It's good, I won medals and I want more - she said - After this medal I will have some rest and I'll continue to work hard." - Daria Bilodid

Lukhumi Chkhvimiani celebrates after winning the men's -60kg title.

Surprise winner

While four of the top five in the -48kg women's draw contested the semi-finals, the men's -60kg competition was full of upsets.

The favourites started tumbling early with Russia's Robert Mshvidobadze going out to Yung Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei.

Georgia's world number three Amiran Papinashvili fell to Kazakhstan's Gusman Kyrgyzbayev and two-time defending champion Naohisa Takato was stunned in the quarter-finals by Sharafuddin Lutfillaev.

Uzbek Lutfillaev made it to the final but had to settle for silver as world number nine Lukhumi Chkhvimiani of Georgia added the world title to his European Games crown thanks to two waza-ari throws in the the final minute.

Bronze went to Kazakhstan's Yeldos Smetov and Japan's Ryuju Nagayama.


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