21 April 2024


European Judo Championships Seniors Zagreb 2024


Despite the Olympic year presenting preparation difficulties for athletes still wanting to compete in the upcoming European and World Championships, there is still a tremendous entry of 439 judoka from 47 nations competing in the Senior European Championships 2024 in Zagreb between the 25th and 28th of April. 

This covers both the Individual and Mixed Team events over the four-day period, but first lets look at the men who will compete for titles on day one. 

Kickstarting the exciting championships in Zagreb are the men in -60kg and -66kg. Right off the bat we can see the absence of the French Olympic team here, nevertheless, their next options will cause great discomfort for the remaining entries. 

In as the #3 seed behind current World Champion and two-time European Champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) and Balabay AGHAYEV (AZE) is Romain VALADIER PICARD (FRA). Already the 21 year-old Frenchman secured a senior European medal in Montpellier last year, as his team mate Luka MKHEIDZE took the title, demonstrating the great strength in this category. Valadier Picard bounced on to the senior circuit and has collected five Grand Slam medals as well as a Grand Prix in Austria last year, and though Paris 2024 is off the cards for him, the French Federation are undoubtedly overjoyed with their Los Angeles potential. 

Romain VALADIER PICARD (FRA) © Carlos Ferreira

Rivalling the top three we have Salih YILDIZ (TUR), Ramazan ABDULAEV (AIN), Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), Jorre VERSTRAETEN (BEL) and Tornike TSJKADOEA (NED) in seeded positions, all perfectly capable of standing on the podium in Zagreb. These names will already grab attention given their prior accomplishments, but what we want to know is who could disrupt the front runners on the big day? 

Tsjakadoea may be leading the Dutch team, but we also have Emiel JARING at #45 in the world ranking, who most recently won bronze in the Antalya Grand Slam and could cause upset. There are also some fresh faces looking to make a name for themselves; Nazar VISKOV (UKR) is only 18 years-old but has claimed the 2023 U23 European title, as well as two Cadet European bronze medals, a Junior bronze in 2022 and an EYOF bronze the same year. Just above Viskov in the ranking is Luis BARROSO LOPEZ (ESP), who placed second to Viskov in the U23 Europeans, but has earned senior event medals in Spain, at the Malaga Senior European Cup and Madrid European Open. The younger generation are knocking at the door… 

2023 U23 European Championship final: Nazar VISKOV (UKR) and Luis BARROSO LOPEZ (ESP) © Carlos Ferreira

The same can be said in the -66kg category, with Austria’s Marcus AUER. Auer has moved to -66kg, significantly lowering his world ranking position, but increasing his success on the tatami, winning the Gyor European Open on his first outing. Miguel GAGO (POR) also looks to have potential for Team Portugal, taking a bronze in the Junior European Championships last year, his style is tremendously entertaining and will serve him well against the top opponents. 

Yashar NAJAFOV (AZE) leads the -66kg category and though he is #6 in the WRL, we are only missing two European athletes above him; current European Champion, Denis VIERU (MDA) and Spanish sensation, David GARCIA TORNE. The lightweights tend to be heavily dominated by our Asian neighbours but we still have great talent in the midst. Second to Najafov is one our more senior competitors, Olympic silver medallist, Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) who last won his European title in Kazan, 2016, followed by a bronze in 2019 and silver in 2021. If both are on top form in Zagreb, they will meet in the final for the title. 


However, should they fall at any hurdle, it could be to almost anyone in this unpredictable and dynamic category. Alberto GAITERO MARTIN (ESP) is a difficult opponent in this weight, as is former European Champion, Bogdan IADOV (UKR), then Daily BOUBA (FRA) will put up a strong front to continue the legacy of the French team. There are two double entries for Italy and Israel, perhaps still debating the Olympic team. For Italy, Elios MANZI and Matteo PIRAS are #21 and #24 respectively, whereas there is an ever so slightly larger gap between Baruch SHMAILOV and Tal FLICKER, #22 and #29. 

Iago ABULADZE (AIN) © Gabriela Sabau

One to watch out for is Iago ABULADZE (AIN), the 2021 World Champion in the -60kg as well as Senior European silver and bronze medallist in the same category, moved to -66kg following the Olympic Games where team mate Robert MSHVIDOBADZE was selected. Since the move, he has earned a Grand Slam bronze in Ulaanbaatar, 2022 and won the Portugal Grand Prix event this year, though his presence on the tour hasn’t been so regular, he will be a major threat for this line up.


Author: Thea Cowen