Still, even on the third day of individual competition in the Junior World Championships 2023, the Japanese team remained consistent enough to take a place in each of the three finals; -81kg, -70kg and -90kg.
In the first men’s category of -81kg, 2021 Cadet European Champion Aleksandre LOLADZE (GEO) turned it around for his entire team, which consisted of multiple European champions, yet none managed to find their way in to the final block in the previous days. Loladze already defeated eventual bronze medallist, IZAWA Naoto of Japan, then in the final went up against the rest of the Japanese entry, IMANO Kaito.
The Georgian was off to a strong start and was arguably the one in control of the contest, initiating the attacks and looking for a positive score while his opponent took the first half of the contest to figure out his opponent. Eventually, some strong ne waza brought the win about for the Japanese athlete, Imano, the fifth gold for Team Japan.
For the -70kg women, the first bronze contest welcomed a familiar match up. April Lynn FOHOU (SUI) and Elena DENGG (AUT) battled it out for yet another major bronze medal, the previous head to head was the Junior European bronze medal contest where the Austrian was victorious. After a gruelling contest, shidos acquired by both, the pair went in to golden score and finally, Dengg continued her winning streak and secured a world bronze.
Another all-European head to head went ahead in the next bronze medal contest, the current Junior European Champion, Kaja SCHUSTER (SLO) took all of 19 seconds to take her world bronze medal. In stupendous fashion, Schuster executed an ippon-scoring drop seoi nage, the momentum taking her over her opponent, Adelina NOVITZKI (ISR), for a repeat of the European final.
I am very happy for each individual medal I win, but I think the junior European title was the confirmation I needed for myself and gave me courage for today. I had a lot of support today, my coach, team mate Nika and of course my parents. Actually my mother wore a red dress at the Junior Europeans and now we have stuck to this, she is wearing red again today and so is my father!
The bronze medal winners in the -90kg category likely weren’t on many radars given that Maksims DUINOVS (LAT) was the #8 seed and Spanish athlete Aaron SANTAMARIA RODRIGUEZ sits at #35 in the WRL, the latter taking out the current European champion, Lars VAN OOSTRUM (NED). Today, the Dutchman was making his way through the rounds but eventually suffered at the hands of eventual bronze medallist, opening up the competition. Finally, Santamaria defeated CHOI Jaemin (KOR) for the medal.
I still have no words for this, it is really difficult to think about whether or not you can be on the podium, to compete against the current European champion, a lot of hard people, you just don’t know if you will win or lose. I lost in the first round of the European Championships against the Italian [Tommaso FAVA] so I didn’t expect something like this. I feel like I’m on another planet now.
In an unforgettable Junior European final in The Hague, Van Oostrum came out with the gold medal, defeating the top athlete, Vugar TALIBOV (AZE). Talibov however, remained consistent and battled his way in to the -90kg final against KAWABATA Komei (JPN).
This final was a battle of strength and Talibov waiting for the perfect opening, which Kawabata wasn’t willing to give, forcing two shidos on the Azeri top seed. In the end, it was a third shido issued to Talibov following a well managed contest from the Japanese judoka, making it a 7-gold haul for Japan so far in this tournament.
Tomorrow marks the fourth and final day of individual competition here in Odivelas, Portugal, with the event beginning at 11:00 local time at JudoTV.com.
Author: Thea Cowen