Gabriella Wood didn't get much time to celebrate being named one of the top ten athletes in T&T for the year 2020 at the 58th annual First Citizens Sports Foundation Sports Awards ceremony on Sunday but she certainly will not mind as she resumes her run-up to the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan.
The local judoka, who was also recognised by the Foundation for her work with the Hopeful Handbags charity organisation in raising awareness and providing hope, help and support for survivors of domestic abuse, will among 442 athletes from 93 delegations competing at the Olympic qualifying tournament at the Antalya Grand Slam in Turkey.
The event starts on Thursday and will run until Saturday and Wood will feature in Pool C in the Women's plus-78 kg category on the final day of the three-day competition.
The draw took place on Wedenesday under the direction of Dr Lisa Allan, International Judo Federation (IJF) Events Director, in the presence of Mohamed Meridja, IJF Education and Coaching Director, Vladimir Barta, IJF Head Sport Director and Florin Daniel Lascau, IJF Sport and Acting Refereeing Director.
Wood, 23, will open against a very experienced Raz Hershko of Israel. Hershko, 22, became European Cadet Champion Under-18 in 2015. At the EYOF in Tbilisi in 2015, she won a silver medal. She took a silver medal at European U-23 Championships in 2017 held in Podgorica and won the European Cup in Malaga in 2018. She claimed a bronze medal at the European Open in Cluj Napoca in 2019 and took silver at the Grand Prix in Montreal.
Wood successfully defended her provisional Olympic slot at the Tbilisi Grand Slam in The Republic of Georgia on the weekend. In 2015, Wood represented T&T at the Junior Pan American Championships in Panama and came away with a silver medal.
If Wood pulls off an upset she will take on the winner of the other Pool C semifinal between Ukraine's Yelyzaveta Kalanina and the winner of the lone quarterfinal match between Essohanam NoelineKoro (Togo) and Yuliana Bolivar Gonzalez (Peru).
In a release sent out by The Friends of Judo Foundation based in Santa Cruz: "We wish her all the best in her quest to become the first female judoka from the English-Speaking Caribbean to compete at the Olympic Games."
Anyone interested in donating to Wood’s journey can do so at any branch of First Citizens Bank - Gabriella M. Wood account number 2355350.