26 April 2024


European Judo Championships Seniors Zagreb 2024


Excitement only grew on the second day of the Senior European Judo Championships 2024, with a guaranteed two medals for the home team, delegations, spectators and the kids camp were ready to celebrate as the final block commenced, deciding who would become European Champion at -63kg, -70kg and -81kg, and to see whether or not the -73kg could be defended.

First up were the -63kg women, with Katarina KRISTO (CRO) bringing the crowds to their feet as she challenged Savita RUSSO (ITA) for the first bronze medal. The pair went in to golden score with Russo ceding two shidos, and at one point the crowd thought it was all over as Kristo secured the osaekomi, which Russo then escaped, this performance was repeated an incredible three times but Russo could not be held. After 3:55 of golden score, Kristo overstretched with an ashi waza attempt which Russo capitalised on, throwing effortlessly with uchi mata. On the other side of the draw, 2023 champion Andreja LESKI (SLO) was dealt a tough card with Lubjana PIOVESANA (AUT), resulting in another golden score bout. Leski managed to save, scoring with a driving drop seoi nage, though Piovesana hadn’t given up and still continued in an attempt to counter.

Making history! Renata ZACHOVA (CZE) © Carlos Ferreira

Though neither finalists of the -63kg category were top seed, they were both in seeded positions; #3 Joanne VAN LIESHOUT (NED) and #8 Renata ZACHOVA (CZE). Based on results, favour lay with the Dutch athlete, however Zachova was on a roll after defeating the now former champion, Leski. Van Lieshout scored initially with morote seoi nage, though Zachova attempted to escape over the opposite side, but seconds later the athlete from Czechia attacked with sode tsurikomi goshi and scored a European title-winning ippon. Not only that, but Zachova made history as the first female European Champion of Czechia.

The -73kg category started with Joan-Benjamin GABA (FRA) earning a bronze medal against Finland’s Valtteri OLIN. Both had a tremendous journey to this contest, but for Gaba this was a save after losing a gruelling semi final against Daniil LAVRENTEV (AIN), winning the title with a low ashi guruma. Next up, Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO) claimed his 5th European medal with a combination, attacking with uchi mata and switching to o uchi gari against Adil OSMANOV (MDA).

A fourth, history-making title for Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) was the only athlete today left to defend his 2023 title. Going for his fourth European title against Daniel LAVRENTEV (AIN) was interesting as this was their first competition head to head, the neutral athlete only 21 years old competing in his first European Championship medal contest after taking 7th place in 2023. Heydarov used his ample experience to manage the contest but it was no easy feat against this hungry opponent, though Lavrentev still picked up two shidos in regular time. Yet another golden score commenced, and the pressure was felt by Heydarov who then picked up a shido of his own for false attack. The defending champion pulled himself back up and dominated the remaining time, forcing a shido on Lavrentev for passivity and taking an emotional fourth title, heading to personal coach and 2008 -73kg Olympic Champion, Elnur MAMMADLI in the crowd.

Ai TSUNODA ROUSTANT (ESP) was looking for her first senior European medal, today is was against Joana CRISOSTOMO (POR). An initial throw from the Spanish athlete scored waza ari but she quickly moved in to her new waza, securing osae komi and winning a bronze at -70kg category.

Barbara MATIC (CRO) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Two medals were guaranteed for Croatia in the -70kg category, Lara CVJETKO was awarded the bronze medal by default as a result of Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER) picking up an injury and being unable to compete, and of course a gold or silver from Barbara MATIC. Pressure was on for Matic to perform, especially for the home fans and her own confidence as we approach the Olympic Games, and walking out her head was held high. With nothing to lose, and all to gain, Elisavet TELTSIDOU (GRE) did the very same. After nine European Championships, she was eager to take a medal, and now she had one regardless, but so close to the finish line, of course the top position was calling. The -70kg finalists are ranked #1 and #3 in the world, making this one of the toughest head to heads of the day, and the scoreboard reflected it. It was evident from the start that Matic was motivated, and Teltsidou was a little slower to get going, but it became her demise as she picked up two shidos and eventually a third for a leg grab. Matic wowed the crowd with her perseverance and she celebrated with her family and the Croatian public!

Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) was unable to defend his -81kg title, however he managed to reserve a place on the podium, after a difficult contest with former World Champion, Sagi MUKI (ISR), Albayrak countered his opponent for the winning score. Next, the 2018 European bronze medallist, Antonio ESPOSITO (ITA) battled against Olympic medallist Shamil BORCHASHVILI (AUT) for another continental medal, whilst Borchashvili was looking for hist first. A golden score battle commenced with two shidos on each side of the scoreboard. After achieving Olympic and world success, Borchashvili added European to his list, securing osae komi for his big win.

Tato GRIGALASHVILI (GEO) was incredibly motivated to retrieve his title and it took him, 44 seconds. The current World Champion was forced to settle for silver in Montpellier, but was after nothing but the gold, and unfortunately this cost opponent Frank DE WIT (NED) the title. Grigalashvili won the 2024 title with a strong hiza guruma, and is back on top.



Author: Thea Cowen