17 April 2021


European Judo Championships


Both the preliminary and final blocks were full of nail-biting, contests. For some, Olympic decisions will be made and for other younger athletes it was a chance to prove they can run with the best.


Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) put on a typically good performance, the current Olympic Champion securing her third European title. The final was by no means easy as she came up against Daria DAVYDOVA (RUS) who took her the full length of the contest though both had ceded two shidos. It was a waza ari score from a seoi nage that eventually earned Trstenjak the title, putting the pressure on her opponent. This was Davydova’s first senior European medal 

Though the only other score she managed to collect was in her first contest, the tactical battle she executes meant that her opponents today were unable to score against her and instead picked up penalties, resulting in a loss. 

The bronze medals went to Trstenjak’s team mate Andreja LESKI (SLO) and Sanne VERMEER (NED). 

Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO) took her third European title. © Carlos Ferreira


Another top seed to make his way to the final was Israel’s Tohar BUTBUL who proved time and time again why he was the number one athlete going in to the tournament, but his winning streak ceased in the final when he was defeated by Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) in the final. 

Butbul and Gjakova found themselves battling it out for the gold medal in the -73kg category. The latter having already claimed an U23 title in 2018, can now state he is the senior European Champion. Each of his contests won in style, aside from a gruelling match up against eventual bronze medallist, Musa MOGUSHKOV (RUS). Gjakova explains they know each other very well and he expected such a contest given his world class style. 

The bronze medals went to a deserving Nils STUMP (SUI) and Mogushkov.

Kosovo’s first male senior European Champion, Akil GJAKOVA. © Rui Telmo Romão


Incredibly, the -70kg saw yet another rematch in this years European Championships. In both the Minsk European Games 2019 and European Judo Championships 2020, Margaux Pinot (FRA) and Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED) found themselves battling it out for the gold medal. 

Pinot may have had the record advantage going in to this contest but Van Dijke was not going to let this opportunity slip away easily given that she is in a national head to head with Kim POLLING. That decision might have been made a bit easier today as Van Dijke caught Pinot and went to take her second European title in this Olympic cycle. A celebration that could only be described as immense relief was had and she was ecstatic with the win, proving that she can beat the best and her hopes are high now for Tokyo. 

Bronze medallists in this category were Madina TAIMAZOVA (RUS) and Barbara TIMO (POR).

An important and emotional win for Sanne VAN DIJKE (NED). © Rui Telmo Romão


A terrific final ensued between World silver medallist and former European Champion, Matthias CASSE (BEL) and Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR). Big teams sat in the tribune for both athletes contributing to an amazing atmosphere which eventually saw Albayrak take the gold. 

This category was exceedingly strong today, even having to take on a home favourite, Anri EGUTIDZE (POR), which arguably could have been the most enjoyable as they both have similar styles and the for a split second, the crowd waited with bated breath to see which way the ‘clinch’ would go. The strength of Albayrak won out in the end and sent him to the final. 

The bronze medals went to Christian PARLATI (ITA) and Sagi MUKI (ISR).

Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) took the -81kg title. © Rui Telmo Romão

Tomorrow will see the remaining weight categories; -90kg, -100kg, +100kg, -78kg and +78kg compete for the European title, returning European Champions will be Mikhail IGOLNIKOV (RUS) in the -90kg category Peter PALTCHIK (ISR) in the -100kg category. Will they be able to take a consecutive title on day three?


Author: Thea Cowen