26 June 2024


European Judo Championships Cadets Sofia 2024


On the third and final day of individual competition of the Cadet European Championships 2024 in Sofia, we have the remaining five categories looking for glory.

Three weight categories remain for the young men, first up is Konstantin DISTEL (GER), a WRL #1 athlete in this event. Distel had a small taste of what it’d be like to be continental champion, but in the end settled for a bronze medal in 2023, his first on the International circuit. He has since added some gold metal to his collection, winning in the Teplice Cup. Ivano DJINKIC (BIH) fell in the Europeans last year, but went on to claim victory in three Cup events, defeating Distel in the final of Porec, and there will be a possible chance of a rematch if both win their sides of the draw. Coming for the top pair is WRL #3, Saba SONGULASHVILI (GEO) who took gold on his first international outing in Gyor, and added to this victory at home in Telavi to bump him up the WRL. In fourth seeding position is Kenzo CREMERS (BEL) who started the year strong with a win in Antalya and is hoping for that winning feeling again in Sofia.

Ivano DJINKIC (BIH) © Tino Maric

Another WRL #1 and defending -70kg European Champion is Tuana GULENAY (TUR). The strength of the young Turkish women is clear and this will be a huge success if she can defend this title alongside team mate Sinem ORUC. Gulenay took second place at world level and has been remaining in the silver medal position on her most recent outings with Nadie JAAFAR (BUL) and Anna OLIINYK-KORNIIKO (UKR) standing in her way. The latter will take the third seeded position, however above her is Serbia’s Aleksandra ANDRIC, who took the Cadet World title last year after missing out in the European Championships. Remaining on the podium since, she has it all to play for again. Nina MUTEBA (FRA) is the last of the top four, but can boast five continental cup wins, four of which in 2024. It is certainly a tough call in this category with the high level of competition.

The -90kg category has a strong entry from Ukraine with top seed, WRL #2 Arkadii SAMOILOV and #5 Dmytro LEBID, both gunning for European gold. Samoilov has the golden experience from Gyor and Samorin, whereas his team mate Lebid has found his feet a little more recently with wins in Teplice and Bielsko Biala only last month. Hopes can rest of the pairs’ shoulders on this occasion. After taking a bronze medal in the Cadet European Championships 2023, Fatih DURSUN (TUR) is back to go one step further and find himself in the final. The second seed of the event hasn’t been as active as others in the weight, however a gold medal in Telavi suggests that frequency doesn’t necessarily matter to him. In at fourth position is Dan KONCILIJA (CRO), gold medallist in Follonica, another with perhaps less experience, but just as hungry for success.

Zuzanna BANASZEWSKA (POL) © Carlos Ferreira

Zuzanna BANASZEWSKA (POL) will be the leading seeded player in the +70kg category, the World bronze medallist has gone from strength to strength, even testing herself at junior level, swiping a bronze in Poznan in the Junior European Cup. On the cadet front however, it has been gold after gold, totally four since her world success, which was certainly fuelled by a fifth place finish in the European Championships. Leonie MINKADA-CAQUINEAU (FRA) on the other hand, dominated in the European Championships and is defending her title this week in the second seeded position. Similarly, Minkada-Caquineau has been finding gold on her cadet journey and added a Junior European Cup bronze to her collection in Malaga. Estonia’s Emma-Melis AKTAS has always been on or around the podium with a number of bronze medal finishes, four to be exact, but can also lay claim to a silver medal in the European Youth Olympic Festival and bronze in the European Championships. This year she managed to break this streak and won the Fuengirola event in Spain, times are changing! Fourth seed, Kristyna KASZPEROVA (CZE) will be competing in her first prime event this week, after beginning her medal haul in Goygol, May 2023, she has only once missed the podium and this consistency could prove key in Sofia.

Finally, the +90kg men. Estonia could truly find great success among their heavyweights this week, leading the young men is Marek-Adrian MASAK (EST). Since triumphing in cadet events including Fuengirola and Berlin, Masak gave his shot in the Kaunas Junior Cup, making it to the final which is great preparation. He will have strong competition however, especially from the tactical Nodar KOBALADZE (GEO), who defeated Masak in the final of Telavi. Subhan AKHUNDOV (AZE) is still relatively new to the medal collection with his first in Riga in October, but had a huge win at home in Goygol in May. Closing out the leading four is Jean Pascal Bi Goli DA COSTA (FRA), who despite a seven-medal haul in Cadet Cups, is yet to find the secret to attaining the gold medal, but perhaps he will surprise his opponents in Sofia and come out victorious.


Author: Thea Cowen