Gili Cohen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam

With her bronze-medal performance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam on October 26, Gili Cohen, from Ra’anana, notched up yet another achievement on the international judo stage. Cohen defeated Joana Ramos of Portugal to claim third place last month in the U52kg category at the prestigious event, which grabbed headlines even before it began after the local organizers refused to allow the Israeli delegation to compete under the Israeli flag and forced them to fight as representatives of the International Judo Federation.

Gili, 26, stepped onto a judo mat for the first time at the age of 4, when her father, Steven, who immigrated to Israel from South Africa in the mid-1980s, took her to a local club in their hometown. She was hooked from day one, and moved a few years later to continue her training at the Maccabi Herzliya sports club. At 14, she began training with the national team squad and remains a member of the senior team to this day. Since joining the national team, Gili has participated in numerous international competitions, winning medals and international recognition in the sport. Her most notable achievements include a bronze medal at the 2014 European Championships in France, fifth place at the 2017 World Championships and her recent success in Abu Dhabi.

Following a two-year campaign ahead of the 2016 Olympics, Gili successfully met the criteria to qualify for Rio, accumulating a total of eight medals along the way, including gold at the Baku Grand Slam. Gili competed in Rio but was knocked out in the second round of the tournament.

In addition to her achievements in the international arena, Gili has reigned as the Israeli national champion in her weight category for the past six years in succession. She also won gold at the recent 2017 Maccabiah Games. Much to her delight, her grandparents, Des and Daphne Cohen, from Cape Town, were on hand to watch her winning performance. Her grandfather, Des, also boasts an impressive Maccabiah record, having won medals in swimming and golf for South Africa.

Gili is currently focused on the road ahead, and is training and competing in Israel and abroad in an effort to qualify for Tokyo 2020. In addition to her judo, Gili is also studying towards a bachelor’s degree through the Open University.

Thanks to her achievements thus far, Gili receives financial support from the Israeli Olympic Committee and Sports Ministry, but would also like to find a sponsor to accompany her on her quest to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. She has the backing and generous support of Ra’anana Mayor Zeev Bielski, but she has yet to find a long-term sponsor and partner for the current Olympic qualification campaign.

I’m an athlete and my focus is on my success on the mat, but I’m proud to represent my country all over the world, and even happier to do so when I’m successful,” Gili said following her medal-winning performance in Abu Dhabi.”

Gili looks set to remain focused on her goals and work hard to achieve and realize her dream of continued success in the international arena and an Olympic medal in Tokyo in 2020.