In the opening final of the U23 European Championships 2023 in Potsdam, Germany, Vera WANDEL of the Netherlands surpassed her cadet titles to earn herself the U23 gold medal.
Step by step, Wandel conquered her opponents and landed herself a place in the -48kg final against Gemma Maria GOMEZ ANTONA (ESP). At the very start of the contest, Wandel scored waza ari with a low o uchi gari that had been a key element of her success today, and in the end it was the title winning score. It was an incredibly emotional win for the 18 year-old Dutch athlete. Through her tears of joy she managed to say,
I didn’t expect this, I came here just to get some more contests!
Similarly in the -60kg final, Nazar VISKOV scored right off the bat with sumi gaeshi, forcing Luis BARROSO LOPEZ (ESP) to chase for the full length of the contest. It was still an active final and Viskov kept on the attack, not resting on his single score. For the Ukrainian athlete, this gold medal was a long time coming, having already secured four bronze medals in continental championship events.
After taking medals in championships before, I felt like I would definitely take one here, but this gold means a lot, I’m really happy. I came in as the number one seed so it felt like an obligation to win here.
Defending U23 European champion, GYERTYAS Roza (HUN) wasted little time, kickstarting her final against Gabriela DIMITROVA (BUL), who gave the Hungarian athlete a tough run. In the end however, some crushing ne waza won the contest for Gyertyas, as she moved in to the hold, Dimitrova tapped out.
Anthony DE ANGELIS (LAT) continued with his big ura nage techniques in the -66kg final against Radu IZVOREANU (MDA), scoring what was originally thought to be ippon, but changed to waza ari. Unfortunately the celebrations ended there for the Latvian team as Izvoreanu executed a spinning harai goshi, stunning both his opponent and the crowd with arguably the ippon of the day. The number one seed took a well deserved gold medal and U23 European title.
Izvoreanu, unsurprisingly, is training with the current senior European champion, Denis VIERU, demonstrating that success breeds success.
Elin HENNINGER (NED) was the best on the tatami today in the -57kg category, not only due to her gold medal, defeating Nino LOLADZE (GEO) in the final, but in her ability to make a comeback. In her semi final, she was down a waza ari score before evening the playing field, and concluding the contest with a submission. The final ran in the exact same way. Loladze scored first with tai otoshi, but Henninger was not done. After levelling the score, the Dutch athlete went from strength to strength and took control of the contest, and to finish off, scored a second waza ari with drop seoi nage, adding another gold medal to the Dutch tally.
I didn’t expect that I’d take the gold but I was hoping for a medal. I felt motivated after Vera [Wandel] took her gold medal, and we even spoke about it in the warm up area after she won! I did go down a score in my semi final and final, both times was a surprise but I really get drive in this situation and it worked well in the end!
There wasn’t much to say regarding the final of the -73kg category as it lasted in record speed of eight seconds. Koen HEG (NED) took bronze in Sarajevo last year, so had already improved on his result by entering the final against Ejder TOKTAY (TUR), but quickly earned the gold medal with ko uchi gari. Three gold medals for the Netherlands.
Closing out day one of the U23 European Championships was the women’s -63kg category, an all-Spanish final. The 2022 Junior European Champion Laura VAZQUEZ FERNANDEZ took on Aitana FERNANDEZ HERRERA for the title today. Vazquez secured a waza ari score with a huge o soto gari, and in the end this was the winning score!
Author: Thea Cowen