Following a Grand Slam win in Antalya, Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) was clearly on top form coming in to the European Championships here in Lisbon. He is #3 in the WRL begging Matthias CASSE (BEL) and Sagi MUKI (ISR) who both found themselves on the podium this week in the -81kg category, but it was Albayrak who took gold.
It was a tough day for the Turkish athlete, his first contest against Azeri Murad FATIYEV seemingly giving him the most problems as he warmed up for the later match ups.
His semi final against home favourite Anri EGUTIDZE (POR) was greatly anticipated as the pair have similar styles and of course there was a great deal of pressure on both for different reasons. Egutidze had also stormed his quarter, defeating current Olympic Champion Khasan KHALMURZAEV (RUS) and current World Champion, Sagi MUKI (ISR) and scored first in the semi.
Albayrak was the comeback kid in this head to head, putting a waza ari on the board half way in and then with only a matter of seconds left on the clock, secured his place in the finals after a clinching effort between the two.
A terrific final ensued between World silver medallist and former European Champion, Casse and Albayrak. Big teams sat in the tribune for both athletes contributing to an amazing atmosphere which eventually saw Albayrak take the gold in golden score with uchi mata. There were huge celebrations in the tribune.
Albayrak who is of Georgian heritage is recognised also as the son of 1996 European Champion, Giorgi REVAZISHVILI (GEO), who during his career also took a silver and three bronze medals in continental championships. It now seems unsurprising that the young Albayrak is so successful with a father who was also World medallist in 1999 and finalist in 1997.
Author: Thea Cowen