Hopefully no athlete will drop their cell phone on the snow or ice in Beijing. They might want to double check where their phone is after the unusual event that stole the media attention on the first day of the Grand Slam of Judo in Paris.
The protagonist: Frenchwoman Priscilla Gneto, a world-renowned judoka, Olympic medalist in London 2012 and European Champion in 2017 in the 57 kg.
Gneto was fighting against Japan’s Momo Tamaoki for a place in the final on the tatami of the Parisian Accor Arena.
In a moment of grappling during the fight, a mobile phone came out of the Frenchwoman’s judogi and fell to the mat. Tamaoki picked up the device and handed it to the referee.
The fight stops and there is confusion everywhere. The referee with doubts, signs to the judges’ table. Then he returns the phone to Gneto and from the center of the tatami he makes a gesture with his hand to declare Tamaoki the winner, and immediately indicates the disqualification of the veteran Gneto.
The unexpected outcome occurred with two minutes and 22 seconds to go before the end of the match. Until that moment, the Frenchwoman was active on the offensive and suddenly the world came crashing down on her because of an oversight, as she later told the press.
Gneto had a mitigating factor despite the penalty: her disqualification was not considered a dangerous action and she was able to win the bronze medal against the Mongolian Lkhagvatogoo in her next fight.
Usually, before going up to the tatami, the judokas place their personal belongings in a basket. She told the journalists that she was following the competition when she received a call and that by conditioned reflex she put the cell phone back in her uniform.
“Overall, apart from this incident, I had a good day. I can’t do anything about it anymore. Next time I will touch my pockets well before entering the tatami”, she told The Team.
“These are the vagaries of life. I wasn’t going to be left with a phone call and no medals! It happened but there was a third place to go, to bring the team back, that’s all I had in mind.”
Gnato recognized that she had to receive reprimands from her trainers. “Sincerely, yes and it would be deserved. Everyone will make fun of me for a long time, but that’s it, it happened.”
Apart from this fact, the international judo circuit was opened in 2022 with several thousand spectators this Saturday, February 5, at the Parisian stadium governed by health protocols. And an even better day for Japan, which won four of the seven crowns in dispute in the first of two dates. France, Mongolia and Georgia won the other three titles.
Amazingly, the incident involving Gneto is not the first time a cell phone caused problems between judokas in a major competition. The Portuguese Anri Egutidze in May 2019 dropped his cell phone in the middle of a fight against the Swedish Robin Pacek during a Grand Slam, this one based in Baku, Azerbaijan.
As the possession of the phone in his judogi was considered an illegal act, Egutidze also suffered a loss by disqualification. Instead of ippon… it was iPhone.