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June 8, 2021 1:12 pm

Israeli Judoka Gefen Primo Wins Career-First Medal at World Championships After Intense Battle With COVID-19: ‘My Time to Rejoice’

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Israeli judoka Gefen Primo holding her bronze medal at the World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Photo: Paco Lozano.

Israeli judoka Gefen Primo won a medal in the 2021 World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Monday for the first time in her career after a physically taxing year in which she battled a “severe” case of COVID-19.

The 21-year-old took home the bronze in the under-52kg category and became the first Israeli woman to win a medal in the international competition since Yarden Gerbi’s silver medal accomplishment in 2014. Primo’s win is also Israel’s 11th medal overall in world championships.

“I’m so happy,” Primo said after the match. She added that last year “brought with it great challenges, and anyone who competes in professional sports in general and judo in particular knows that it’s part of the magic of this profession, and it’s part of my path as an athlete. I learned to accept both the challenges and the joy, and today is my time to rejoice. [To] be on the podium at the World Championships? I’m happy.”

Primo contracted the coronavirus in November 2020 and had “severe” symptoms, her head coach, Shany Hershko, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. He said the athlete suffered from “a significant decrease in aerobic and physical abilities [and] it took several months until she started to recover. Even to this day, [she] still suffers from a number of problems and loss of sense of taste.” Primo also continues to face difficulties in gaining muscle mass, but Hershko said the judoka is heading in the right direction and “I believe now she’s around her 80-90 percent” recovered.

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In the Judo World Championships, Primo beat judokas from Mexico and Brazil on her way to the quarterfinals, where she lost to Switzerland’s Fabienne Kocher, who also took home a bronze medal. During her repechage fight, the Israeli athlete beat Mongolia’s Sosorbaram Lkhagvasürengiin and then Uzbekistan’s Diyora Keldiyorova to win the bronze medal.

Despite her win, as well as the bronze she scored in the European Championships in April, Primo will not be representing Israel in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, after losing her home country’s only spot in the under-52kg category to Gili Cohen. Israeli judokas have excelled at the Olympic Games in the past and have taken home five of the nine Olympic medals won by Israel.

Israel Hayom reported in March that Israel has been given the choice to host the World Judo Championships in 2024 or 2025.

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