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Gemma Gibbons, the University of East London student from Greenwich, wins silver

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Greenwich judo player Gemma Gibbons claimed a wonderful silver medal in the under-78kg Olympic judo competition this afternoon.

The 25-year-old, who is a student at the University of East London, was beaten by Kayla Harrison from the United States in the Olympic final, but the Londoner, who won four fights during the day, had done enough to claim a precious silver medal for Great Britain.

Harrison always looked to be on top in the final and two minor throws, scoring as yuko, were enough to give the American the verdict.

Watched by Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian premier Vladimir Putin, Gibbons gave her all in the final, but exhaustion finally caught up with her after four earlier fights which included three victories against players from the top 10 in the world.

It had been a magnificent day for the Londoner who had come through four matches in dramatic style to reach the Olympic final.

She had won her first round match with a stunning Uchi Mata throw for ippon against Yahima Ramirez of Portugal, before a dramatic match in the last 16 against seventh seed Lkhamdegd Purevjargal from Mongolia.

Leading by a yuko, the smallest score in judo, it looked like the Londoner was facing heartbreaking defeat when with seven seconds to go a late counter was scored as a yuko for the Mongolian after all three judges came on to the mat to discuss it.

With a passivity mark against Gibbons, it looked like the game was up, but incredibly with one second to go, the Greenwich girl went on to the attack and with a Sumi-gaeshi throw she was given a second yuko to win it.

In the quarter-final against former World Champion Marhinder Verkerk of the Netherlands. The UEL student had matched her opponent move for move in a real battle in the quarter-finals, but it seemed to be set for three minutes of golden score extra time as the scores remained blank deep into the final minute.

But with just 10 seconds to go, the 25-year-old Londoner launched a stunning throw which initially scored her a match-winning ippon.

That was downgraded to a 10-point Waza-ari, and she then held on for the final few seconds to clinch her place in the last four.

Her semi-final against French world champion Audrey Tcheumeo proved to be an epic as it went into golden score extra time.

It was Gibbons’ attacks that were proving more potent as the match moved into the final minute and a half.

And with a devastating throw she put hot favourite Tcheumeo on to her back for a match-winning score of ippon to win a medal and book that place in the final.

The silver medal made her the first woman to win a judo medal since Kate Howey back in Sydney in 2000 and it was fitting that Howey was at mat-side to see her claim her deserved prize.

Liz Egan, the High Performance Sports Manager at the UEL, where Gibbons is studying for a Masters in Exercise Science and Health, was naturally delighted with her performance.

“As a Masters student here at the University of East London, Gemma has been incredibly focused over the last year, combining her studies with her Olympic training commitments,” she said.

“Both the staff and students at the University of East London are absolutely thrilled that Gemma has won the silver medal! Her inclusion in the final was far more than we ever expected, so today marks a fantastic day for British Judo.”

It certainly does.

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