Larissa Paes kickstarted her jiu-jitsu season with a gold medal win at Grand Slam Tokyo, the opening leg of the Grand Slam Abu Dhabi World Tour.
The capital-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor overcame her two rivals, Buyandelger Battsogt of Mongolia and compatriot Natalia de Souza, to take gold in the black belt 62-kilogram category on Sunday.
“It’s always nice to start the season successfully,” said Paes, who was crowned world No 1 after the season-ending Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (World Pro) in April.
“I took a short break after the World Pro and was back in training two weeks later preparing for Tokyo, which was always my target for the defence of my world title.
“I’m quite pleased with the result but this is only the beginning. The plan is to take the same path as last season, which is to compete in all the Grand Slam events and as many world ranking competitions.”
Paes, 22, reiterated that moving to Abu Dhabi 19 months ago provided a strong base for her to compete around the globe.
“It’s my job and the money I earn in Abu Dhabi that has given me the opportunity to travel for competitions around the world,” she said. “I’ll be ever thankful to Abu Dhabi of my achievements.”
Joining her on the victory podium in Tokyo was compatriot and the world No 2 Maysa Bastos who got the better of Aya Matsumoto of Japan in the black belt 49kg final.
In the remaining black belt division fights for women, Gabrieli Pessanha took gold in the 90kg in an all-Brazilian final against Jessica da Silva, Samantha Cook of Great Britain took the 70kg final from Brazilian Claudio do Val and Amal Amjahid of Belgium outclassed Australian Livia Gluchowska in the 55kg.
The Brazilian men, who usually dominate the black belt category at the Grand Slams, could only win three of the seven gold medals through Gutemberg Pereira (110kg), Rudson Teles (94kg) and Diego Ramalho (77kg).
Nobuhiro Sawada (56kg) and Tomoyuki Hashimoto (77kg) of the host nation were successful in two finals while Lee Ting of Australia in the 69kg and DJ Jackson of the United States (85kg) grabbed the remaining two gold.
The UAE contingent meanwhile returned with 20 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze medals from 139 finals in the opening leg of the Grand Slam Abu Dhabi World Tour.