Yarden Gerbi, from Netanya to Rio
©L'Esprit du Judo / Yarden Gerbi with her gracious smile.
Always ranked, often on a podium, the 24 years old Israeli is part of the favourites for this upcoming olympiade. The young champion has shared with us …
This young fighter comes from a peace less country. With her gracious smile, Yarden Gerbi is an appealing character; at 24 years old she exhumes a wise serenity of a peaceful warrior. After assuring a second place at the European championships in 2012 at Chelyabinsk, Yarden Gerbi’s career seems to have skyrocketed; with two podiums at the Grands Prix of Dusseldorf and Samsun, a bronze at the Budapest European Championship, the gold metal seven days later at Bakou’s grand slam and lastly a silver at Tyumen Masters.
Successes that brought her to the top, by becoming number 1 in the world. From Netanya to the top of the world , Yarden Gerbi started her career at the age of 6 when she was following her cousin’s steps in the family owned gymnasium. Ordinarily hosting ballet lessons, the gym offered a couple of tapis, it was love at first sight for Yarden : “ I did experienced ballet, piano, basketball but my definite favourite was Judo; I fell in love “. Eighteen years later, Gerbi s sentiments have not changed, and still enjoys every second of it – “I like knowing that you can win or loose at any minute, it’s a permanent challenge that constantly stimulates me”. In fact Gerbi is up for all the challenges, side by side with Shany Hershko, who is has followed her to the top since her first steps. After twenty years of co operation Shany Hershko’s view is simple “ She is where she deserves to be, she never doubted and neither did I”.
This Success story was not always foreseeable; Israel has never been a sport heaven due to an uncertain a daily life, constructed around war and religious conflicts. From its young history the Hebrew state counts only 7 Olympic medals across every discipline. However with three Olympic podiums Judo has managed to stand out : The silver of Yael Arad in Barcelona in 1992, Shay-Oren Smadja third on the same year, and last but not least, Ariel Zeevi Bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. These successes have pushed the Israeli youth towards Judo – as Yarden Gerbi remembers “ I started Judo after Yael’s medal, when I met her she made me understand that when we believe in our dreams everything is possible. She made me confident and eager to win”. Today the three “veterans” are all involved on the Israeli Judo scene, Samdja is the coach of the national team and Zeevi is in charge of the cadets team.
Furthermore her involvement in Judo Yael Arad is one of the main member of the Israeli Olympic Committee, and keeps a close eye on Gerbi – “ Yarden is hard working, madest and talented. She has made great progress and has all the tools to remain number 1. I truly hope she will become my Olympic heir”
To achieve this goal Yarden has put on hold her Economic Studies – “ I am concentrating on Judo. If I am not 100% committed I will never achieve my goals’ she says. – Even for the compulsory military service, Yarden beneficiate of a special treatment from Tsahal – “ The military service has offered me nothing. Combine Judo and army was a waste of time for me; I would have preferred doing one or the other. It is normal to serve its country, and I consider that I serve mine through sport, which is as important “ – Being engaged at 100%, that’s the Gerbi method, who is well known to be a Workaholic.
In competition with Schlesinger
After her second place at the Masters, the Israeli says to have a precise strategy against each of her competitors – “ I am setting traps for all of them if they avoid it, I make up something else. I always try to be few steps ahead”. However this does not make her unbeatable – “Gévrise Emane, Zolnir in the past, the Japonese … If I cant beat them, it means I have work ahead” Gerbi like argument. Even for the new number 1, competition is even present within her country : Alice Schlesinger. A year older than her, already world champion and three times european medalist, had beaten her at the last second for the OG ticket. A wound just healed that Gerbi does not want to reopen before Rio. " Rio 2016, I work every single day in order to be there. Must I must go slowly. Before, I need a worl medal", this is what she plans. She will be at the world championships in Rio when her opponent, denouncing "favoritism towards Gerbi", fell out with her federation and could be fighting for Turkey or Azerbaïdjan in the next months. Gerbi perfers not to talk about it. " Our competition is healthy. Today I'm the first but I don't forget that she was the one in London."
Gerbi and her uchi - mata go their own way.When we talk about her tokui-waza, her face is illuminated: " I adore making uchi - mata. My strength is to be able to make ippon on a lot of techniques. But uchi -mata it is the highlight. " The gold on uchi - mata in Rio? The opponents are warned.
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