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This weeks women’s European Open will be held in Prague, Czech Republic. The Arena Sparta will host the seven weight categories on Saturday 2nd of March. 


With a great amount of talent distributed over all of the categories, the day will provide excitement from beginning to end. In the lightest of the weight classes, we find the U23 European bronze medallist, Tamar MALCA (ISR). The -48kg athlete demonstrated her abilities earlier this year in the European Open in Sofia, MALCA’s explosive talents taking her to the final and leaving with a silver medal. At only 18 years-old, this young woman is definitely one to watch. 


Great Britain will be represented by two 2018 European bronze medallists, Lucy RENSHALL (-63kg) and Gemma HOWELL (-70kg) in a bid to bring home a gold medal, their fellow female team members picking up multiple medals in Sofia. 



To match HOWELL’s Senior European bronze, another young athlete will be in the mix, 18 year-old Mariam TCHANTURIA (GEO), who took the Junior European bronze in 2018 as well as a bronze at home in the Tbilisi Grand Prix. It will be interesting to see how the young athlete will fare against athletes such as HOWELL, who is ten years her senior with an abundance of experience. 


In the -78kg, Sama Hawa CAMARA of France comes in as the #2 seed following a successful 2018. CAMARA took multiple Grand Prix medals last year including a bronze in Hohhot and a silver in The Hague. The gold medal was snatched in The Hague by Antonina SHMELEVA (RUS) who saw out the current World Champion of the -78kg category in round one of the Dusseldorf Grand Slam on Sunday. Perhaps this will be the Frenchwoman’s opportunity to take home the gold medal and number one place. 


Follow the live stream on Saturday 2nd March on www.eju.net.


By Thea Cowen

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The third and final day of the Dusseldorf Grand Slam saw Mammadali MEHDIYEV (AZE) grab the biggest prize of his international career to date. In a field of 62 judoka, the largest weight category in the competition, Mehdiyev battled ferociously in what must surely have been his longest day on the IJF World Tour. Without the benefit of a first-round bye, Mehdiyev was required to defeat six opponents on his way to the gold medal in the -90kg category, to place him atop the Grand Slam podium for the first time.



There may be those who will consider Mehdiyev to have been lucky to have found himself in the lower half of the draw, given that the top half contained four world champions including current title holder Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP), GWAK Donghan (KOR), Avtandil TCHRIKISHVILI (GEO) and Loic PIETRI (FRA). With that concentrated a line up, the crowd in the ISS Arena did not have long to wait for the carnage to begin. With each round came a new victim.



The first of the “famous four” to fall was Tchrikishvili who, to be fair, could hardly be considered to have fallen; an injury picked up in the warm-up area kept him from reaching round one and the tatami at all. In round two it was Pietri who lost out to Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (RUS). Round three saw Gwak lose to MURAO Sanshiro (JPN). That left Sherazadishvili whose quarter final loss to Jesper SMINK (NED) consigned the Spaniard to the repechage and meant that at the very least there would be no world champion (current or otherwise) battling for the top spot.


Sailing serenely through the lower half then was Mehdiyev, who on his way to the semi-final enjoyed wins over Li KOCHMAN (ISR), BU Hebilige (CHN), Robert FLORENTINO (DOM) and world silver medallist Ivan Felipe SILVA MORALES (CUB). Number two seed Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB) had made his way to the semi-final but he too fell at the hands of the unstoppable Mehdiyev. In the final even the dangerous Murao found Mehdiyev too hot to handle, the Japanese being thrown for waza ari and it with that single score the Azeri hero secured the gold medal. Quite by chance (call it luck if you wish) not one of the “four”, nor Mehdiyev, had to face one another.


Podium


In the -90kg category the gold medal was won by Mammadali MEHDIYEV (AZE) when in the final he defeated MURAO Sanshiro (JPN). The bronze medals were won by Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (RUS) and Jesper SMINK (NED).


In the -100kg category the gold medal was won by IIDA Kentaro (JPN) when in the final he defeated CHO Guham (KOR). The bronze medals were won by Laurin BOEHLER (AUT) and Zelym KOTSOIEV (AZE).


In the +100kg category the gold medal was won by HARASAWA Hisayoshi (JPN) when in the final he defeated Inal TASOEV (RUS). The bronze medals were won by Stephan HEYGI (AUT) and ULZIIBAYAR Duurenbayar (MGL).


In the -78kg category the gold medal was won by Mayra Aguiar (BRA) when in the final she defeated Anna Maria WAGNER (GER). The bronze medals were won by Bernadette GRAF (AUT) and Klara APOTEKER (SLO).In the +78kg category the gold medal was won by Idalys ORTIZ (CUB) when in the final she defeated ASAHINA Sarah (JPN). The bronze medals were won by Iryna KINDZERSKA (AZE) and Maria Suelen ALTHEMAN (BRA).

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Five wins by ippon is usually the signal that a judoka has had an exceptionally successful day. And so it proved for Sally CONWAY (GBR) as she collected the gold medal in the -70kg category on the second day of competition at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam. With her highly effective newaza to the fore, Conway looked sharp and combative, impenetrable in defence (she did not give up a single score) and disciplined (she did not collect a single shido).



When asked about winning her third Grand Slam Conway said rather shyly, “I am not really one to count how many medals I’ve won. But I’m glad to know it is three.” She went on to say,


“I prepare the same for all tournaments, whether it is a Grand Prix, Grand Slam or an Olympic Games. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. I am glad that things worked today. It’s not that I focus on any particular player, but today I managed to defeat Maria BERNABEU (ESP) to whom I’d lost recently.”


With regard to the strength of the category Conway said,


“It would be difficult to single out just one or two in what is an extremely difficult category. For example, the young Brazilian [Ellen SANTANA] who defeated some tough fighters to take a bronze medal. But the fact is that they are all dangerous and all capable of medal winning performances. These are the sort of challenges that you have to meet if you want to compete at Olympic level. It took a little while after Rio 2016 to feel that same drive. But I am focused on Tokyo 2020 now.”


With a full IJF World Tour calendar to choose from Conway singled out a few upcoming events,


“I’ll be going to the Grand Slam in Ekaterinburg next. Thereafter I’ll be going off to train in Japan. I love it out there. The food, the people. I really look forward to it.”



Podium


In the -63kg category the gold medal was won by TASHIRO Miku JPN when in the final she defeated Daria DAVYDOVA (RUS). The bronze medals were won by Andreja LESKI (SLO) and DOI Masako (JPN).


In the -70kg category the gold medal was won by Sally CONWAY (GBR) when in the final she defeated Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER). The bronze medals were won by Maria BERNABEU (ESP) and Ellen SANTANA (BRA).


In the -73kg category the gold medal was won by ONO Shohei (JPN) when in the final he defeated EBINUMA Masashi (JPN). The bronze medals were won by Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO) and Rustam ORUJOV (AZE).


In the -81kg category the gold medal was won by FUJIWARA Sotaro (JPN) when in the final he defeated Aslan LAPINAGOV (RUS). The bronze medals were won by Matthias CASSE (BEL) and Dominic RESSEL (GER).

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There was an air of inevitability to the manner in which Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS) set about collecting her sixth Grand Slam gold medal. The opening day of the Dusseldorf Grand Slam saw the current Olympic champion in the -52kg category take the gold medal virtually untroubled. Indeed, it was Kelmendi’s opponents, as is so often the case, who struggled to come to terms with her exceptional gripping and movement; so much so that three of her five opponents were defeated having received red cards. On her way to her second Dusseldorf title (2011 Grand Prix), Kelmendi was tested only by JEONG Bo Keyong (KOR), the Korean causing a minor tremor by catching Kelmendi for waza ari in their quarter final. The real earthquake came against Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) in the semi-final when, in a repeat of the Olympic final in Rio, Kelmendi unleashed a massive harai goshi that brought the Italian crashing to the tatami with a landing that shook the house.



Purposeful and outwardly determined as ever, Kelmendi nevertheless betrays at times her complete respect for opponents and can surely be considered as one of the greatest of the current crop of competitors. When asked to describe her day Kelmendi answered,


“It was a good day; apart from the first fight which, for some inexplicable reason, I found myself feeling very nervous about. Once I got going I felt more positive despite not having things working as well as I would have liked. The semi-final had that bit of extra edge to it given that I had been told by the referee in my contest with her [Odette Giuffrida] in Abu Dhabi that I could not continue because of an injury. So here in Dusseldorf I was prepared, as I was in the Olympic final, to be at my best. I did not have any special technique planned. But when the opportunity came for the o-goshi it was technique that I have used many times before and it worked beautifully.”


When asked about the final against LKHAGVASUREN Sosorbaram (MGL) Kelmendi said, “I had not fought her before, except at the training camp in Paris. I did not know that she was 17 years old. So, after Paris I was expecting her to be a little more attacking and I was surprised that she fought was a little bit of a negative contest collecting three shidos. But I take the wins how I can, even if I can’t always throw to win.”


“I was glad to see many fans in the arena supporting me and that is always nice. As far as opponents in my weight category are concerned, I try give equal attention to all who I have to face. I know there are those in my weight category who I have yet to fight, but I will focus on them when the time comes as I do with all my opponents,” said Kelmendi.


The bronze medals were by Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) and MAEDA Chishima (JPN).


Podium


In the -48kg category the gold medal was won by 2018 world silver medallist TONAKI Funa (JPN) when in the final she defeated KANG Yujeong (KOR). The bronze medals were won by Catrina COSTA (POR) Nathalia BRIGIDA (BRA).


In the -57kg category the gold medal was won by current world champion YOSHIDA Tsukasa (JPN) when in the final she defeated current Olympic champion Rafaela SILVA (BRA). The bronze medals were won by Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE (FRA) and Olympic silver medallist DORJSUREN Sumiya (MGL).


In the -60kg category the gold medal was won by number two seed NAGAYAMA Ryuju (JPN) when in the final he defeated number one seed Robert MSHVIDOBADZE (RUS). The bronze medals were won by Lukhumi CHKHVIMIANI (GEO) and Tornike TSJAKADOEA (NED).


In the -66kf category the gold medal was won by MARUYAMA Joshiro (JPN) when in the final he defeated KIM Limhwan (KOR). The bronze medals were won by Yakub SHAMILOV (RUS) and YONDONPERENLEI Baskhuu (MGL).

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Even before the start of the Belgian EJU Kata tournament 2019 it is already a success in terms of participations. 3 continents, 17 nations and 82 two pairs (164 participants) will participate in this event.


The best World and European pairs, world and European champions and medallists will compete this weekend. 30 judges representing 8 nations will also be present. Brussels will be for sure one of the biggest European Kata competitions before the European Championships and seminar in Spain in July.



Next EJU Kata events will be a Kata seminar and competition in Pordenone (Italy) end of March then Judo Festival Kata Kodokan seminar in Porec (Croatia) middle of June.

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In a competition dominated by Russia's powerful U18 team (4 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze), Brazil (3 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze) and Germany (2 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze) also managed to tap into the top half of the medal table. Two young Spanish judoka, Ariane TORO SOLER (-52 Kg) and María ROJAS GONZALEZ (-44Kg), excelled with medal winning performances at the Cadet European Judo Cup Fuengirola 2019, placing the team in for a 6th position on the overall medal table.  



The Sports Director of the Royal Spanish Judo Federation, Sara Álvarez pointed out her view over the weekend:


"One gold and one silver. Two medals may seem little for a team that is at home soil, however, I am left with what is really important in these age categories: with the potential that our judokas have shown, their attitude and their desire to work. The level of the competition has been very high, but we have played battles, we have fought until the end ... and in many occasions we have lost, but we have almost never been defeated. I am left with a good taste in my mouth and I am sure that these athletes will give us great joys during this season and, most importantly, for many more seasons. The cadets judokas are here to learn, to become a real team and our role is to help them on that path. "



With the total of 14 medals, the Russian team has become the main protagonist of the tournament. This is how London 2012 Olympic Champion and Russian cadet coach, Arsen Galstyan, valued the participation of his team:


“For us, Fuengirola tournament is a mandatory test in our international calendar, we have seen that year after year it has been consolidated and that better teams come and repeat. We have seen that this year the subsequent training camp has a record of participation and for us that is essential in the preparation of the European Championship. In addition, Fuengirola offers an exceptional organization, and we love the climate, the food and the hotel that allows us without losing the concentration to be in a relaxed atmosphere ideal for this type of tests.” 



A three-days training camp follows in Fuengirola which will take place at the Juan Gómez sports pavilion (Juanito) with over 300 judoka registered. The next Cadet European Judo Cup will take place between 2-3 of March in Antalya, Turkey.


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The second and final day of the Junior European Judo Cup in St. Petersburg saw an additional five golden winning performances from Russian judoka. The overall medal table displayed the total number of 10 gold, 9 silver and 22 bronze medals for the host nation. Eight other countires managed to grab a medal over the weekend: The Netherlands, Italy. Hungary, Belarus, Poland, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Lithuania.


Sport Director of the European Judo Union, Pavel Yasenovsky, pointed out the high level of the organization. He also noted importance of the international training camp which will take place across the upcoming three days:


“This training camp is a great tradition. Guys get an excellent sparring practice there. It’s important for them not only for sport component but also for communication one. Guys get the opportunity to communicate with each other, to share their experiences, to find new friends.”


According to the Sport Director’s words, this particular event has been held in April for the last 17 years. In his opinion that was a better timing for the tournament.


“ The Junior Cup in St. Petersburg used to be a great part of the national team’s preparation for the World and European championship. Dates of this Cup was chosen unsuccessfully this year, because lots of national championships are holding at this time. I think that it’s necessary to return former terms back. We will write a report about it to the European Union.”


The following athletes were celebrating their golden moments on day two.


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The second day of the European Judo Open in Rome brought the crowd to life as their athletes fought exceedingly well, so well that in the -90kg category, we had an all-Italian final. This appeared to be a trend in three of the four weight categories, the -81kg was all-Russian and the +100kg was all-Ukrainian, displaying the wealth of talent for each of the respective countries. 


Both unseeded competitors, Domenico DI GUIDA and Lorenzo RIGANO of Italy, were of course the highlight for the spectators. The younger athlete, RIGANO showed his skills on the tatami, winning three of his contests by ippon. He has been both a successful cadet and junior competitor, only losing out in the final to DI GUIDA by penalties. Both of the Italian athletes have similar fighting styles, looking for the uchi mata opening, the left on right situation acting as a good defence, preventing any successful attacks for either judoka. 



DI GUIDA has many successes including a Junior World Championship silver, winning the U23 European Championships and a collection of continental open and cup medals. The 26 year old athlete demonstrated his experience by making his way through his half of the draw and taking the gold medal. 


“I am very happy to take the gold medal here, Lorenzo is an extremely great athlete and it was a difficult contest. We have only fought once before so we don’t know each other very well. I felt confident that I would take a medal although I was unseeded, I do not know what it next for me but I will take some rest now before I make a plan.”


RIGANO took a very convincing silver though his disappointment was evident. The bronze medals went deservedly to BU Hebilige (CHN) and Bosko BORENOVIC (SRB). 


By Thea Cowen 




PODIUM



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This year celebrates the 18th anniversary of the Junior European Judo Cup in St. Petersburg. The first day saw Russia claiming the majority of the gold medals, five to be exact, the Netherlands and Italy were both able to win a gold a piece. 


The President of the Judo Federation, Mikhail RAKHLIN, spoke about the plethora of sportspeople who have partaken in this tournament over the years that have become successful athletes on the world stage. 


HORVATH Lasllo, the mentor of the Hungarian team, had only good things to say about the organization of the event, regarding fair judging and the  high calibre of the competitors.


"The tournament is held in such a great place, there are good conditions for the athletes with comfortable training areas. It’s nice to point out that the training camp will be organized after the competition. The rivalry is really strong here because of a large  amount of Russian sportsmen. They are psychologically and physically well prepared. I always tell to my guys to be persistent. Go! Catch! Attack!"


Following the success of Alina SERGEEVA (-48kg), Khetag BASAEV (-60kg), Alexandr BURMISTROV (-66kg), Makhmadbek MAKHMADBEKOV (-73kg) and Mariia GRYZLOVA (-63kg) the home crowd created an electric atmosphere in the Yubileynyy Arena.



Podium






Before the final block, the acting Governor, Alexander BEGLOV wished all the sportspeople good luck and victories.


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“Representatives of 14 countries came to us. One of judo founders said great words, 'It doesn’t matter who will win, the most important thing is that you become better than you were yesterday.' I’m sure that the strongest will win. I wish you a gentle way and  perseverance in your achievements.”


The competition was held in the sport arena, Yubileynyy. This year 242 participants took part in the tournament, 154 boys and 88 girls.


The second day of the event will view the remaining seven weight divisions; -81kg; -90kg; -100kg and +100kg for the boys and for the girls; -70kg; -78kg and +78kg. Follow all action live online via eju.net.


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An incredibly competitive day has come to an end in Oberwart, Austria. An outstanding performance has been shown today by Anna BOROWSKA (POL). Young, yet very talented Polish judoka, shone throughout the day as she won each of her five contests by ippon in the -57kg category.



In the first round, BOROWSKA defeated the young Seija BALLHAUS (GER) when she pulled out her ne-waza skills to choke her German opponent in to submission. Next up for BOROWSKA was Carla UBASART MASCARO (ESP). After three minutes of fighting, the score was equal, but with a colossal seoi nage, the Polish wonder scored with ippon.



The third contest saw ZHANG Wen (CHN) taking on all the challenges of BOROWSKA, who showed her tactical skills as she defeated her opponent from China on penalties.


The semi-final was against LKHAGVATOGOO Enkhriilen from Mongolia. BOROWSKA, champion of the Tashkent Grand Prix 2017, took the waza ari lead with a powerful uchi mata. With less than 20 seconds before time expired, she threw with seoi nage to a place in the final.



In the other half of the draw, the current Olympic Champion Rafaela SILVA had worked her way through to the final. The Brazilian World Champion and number one seed faced difficulties in the final, a potential injury in the previous contest was the reason for this.


BOROWSKA took control of the contest and executed a beautiful ko-uchi-gari. Everybody expected a strong response from SILVA but instead she received two penalties. It became evident that SILVA was experiencing greater problems with her knee injury but BOROWSKA repeated her seoi nage and ended the day with the finest ippon score.


"I saw that she had some pain, but she stepped on the tatami, so for me she was ready. She is the current Olympic Champion and I did not want to underestimate her. After my second waza-ari I recognized that she had some pain again so I was not satisfied with my victory.” 


For BOROWSKA, it was her third time competing in Oberwart having never medalled before,


“I not competed in Herstal [Belgium] and the Grand Slam in Paris, I had a feeling that I was not prepared enough so I asked my coach if I could compete here before I go to the Grand Slam in Düsseldorf. It was a perfect test for me and now I have the self-confidence for the upcoming events.”

Podium


By the end of the day the total number of 7 gold medals were spread amongst 5 countries. The host nation Austria shared the first place in the medal tally (2,1,0) with Mongolia (2,1,0) followed by China (1,1,4). Altogether 179 athletes from 35 nations and 4 continents took part in Oberwart. 


The next European Judo Open for Women will take place in two weeks time when the female athletes will head out to Warsaw, Poland, to challenge each other, whilst the male competitors will battle it out on the same weekend in Prague, Czech Republic.


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