Host country Kosovo can dream of a gold medal at the European Championships Open in Pristina. It is not the Olympic champions Nora GJAKOVA or Distria KRASNIQI (both -57, see women’s story), who had high hopes, but former European champion Akil GJAKOVA (-73). The 27-year-old, younger brother of Nora, will face Manuel LOMBARDO (ITA) in the final for gold. The runner-up in the world championships eliminated Olympic champion Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO) with a waza-ari in the semi-final. Once again, the man from Turin used his special technique kata-guruma to win. Local hero Gjakova, who finished third in the European Championships in Montpellier (FRA) at the beginning of November, beat world number one Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) in the quarter-finals to the delight of the local fans.
The winner of the final will receive 55,000 euros in prize money. “Akil can do anything now. He can also beat Manuel Lombardo,” believes Kosovo federation president Agron KUKA. “Akil has surprised us all. We didn’t expect him to make it to the final for gold. It’s a huge success against in such a competition! Yesterday I would have said: If we have two athletes in the final block, that’s a success – not all four.”
The afternoon session in Pristina begins at 5 p.m. with the two bronze medal fights in the category up to 73 kg. The two top-seeded athletes will clash in the first duel, with number one Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) facing number two Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO). In the second bronze medal match, surprise contender Dardan CENA, 20 years old and No. 18 in the junior ranking, is another local hero. Cena, who is only ranked 241st in the world in the general class, will take on Petru PELIVAN (MDA).
The final for first place is the fifth fight after 5 pm – live on JUDOTV.com.
Author: EJU Media