Though the -90kg final between one of the home favourites and in fact, the associations president’s son, Klen Kristofer KALJULAID and John JAYNE (USA) didn’t go ahead due to injury, it was a ballistic journey for both to reach this point. Kaljulaid was also faced with his compatriot Mattias KUUSIK in the semi final, a contest which demonstrated the judo values and ultimately the respect that these athletes have for one another. In fact, Kuusik managed, carrying an injury, to succeed in the bronze medal contest against Karl BAATHE (SWE) despite being down a waza ari score until the final seconds and scoring twice to bring the medal home. The support from the crowd was sensational and they without a doubt helped their athlete to push on through.
In one of the most populated weight categories this weekend, it was no easy road to the final, but also not too big a surprise given they were the top two seeds. It was however, a treat for the home crowd to take two medals in this category, coming close on day one with two fifth places. Kaljulaid was pleased to take gold,
I’m happy with my performance, it wasn’t great I don’t feel because I picked up a little injury in my first contest and maybe usually I would have considered not continuing in the tournament, but today there was no way I was quitting in front of my home crowd.
The -81kg final ended up being an all-Ukrainian head to head between Sergii KRIVCHACH and Mykhailo SVIDRAK. National match ups are never easy, athletes typically know one another really well, and this particular one was tough with the pair accumulating shidos. In golden score it was an ippon from Svidrak that concluded the contest.
Unfortunately the -70kg final didn’t last 30 seconds, a mistake from Maxine HEYNS (BEL) attacking against the elbow meant disqualification and awarded the gold medal to Dagmar VAN WONDEREN (NED).
Una DOLGILEVICA (LAT) wasted little time against Linda POLITI (ITA) in the -78kg final, scoring waza ari with sutemi waza. Though Politi gave her best effort, she simply couldn’t find a way in against the young Latvian athlete and settled for the silver medal. This is the first international gold medal for Dolgilevica who showed promise as a cadet, taking a continental championship silver medal in 2019.
Actually I’m speechless, I’ve never won a gold medal in a European Open, or even a European Cup! So I’m really happy today, it is really good for me, I think it’s been a good confident boost so now I feel ready for the Grand Prix and Grand Slam events. Coming in to the competition today I felt strong and I had fought some of these girls before so I knew a little what to expect, and just go step by step. In the final, I had to be careful after my score because she [Politi] was really coming for me, she is strong and was attacking hard but my task was just to get the right grips and of course [she laughs] don’t fall down!!
Next up to take a gold medal was Georgios KROUSSANIOTAKIS (CYP), defeating Enrico BERGAMELLI (ITA) with ko uchi gari and later sumi gaeshi to conclude the final. Kroussaniotakis has been on a roll recently, also claiming the gold medal in the -100kg category during the Games of the Small States of Europe in Malta. It will continue to be a week of celebration for the Cypriot athlete who is graduating university and will go on to compete in the World University Championships in China.
To close out a weekend of great judo in Tallinn, they heavyweight men took to the tatami, ready for an all out battle, but Wesley GREENIDGE (GBR) had his eyes set on the gold medal, and given his previous performances, it was unsurprising that he managed to execute an ippon scoring harai makikomi in just under 45 seconds against Jules BLOM (NED).
Everything went to plan today, I came in knowing that I could win and I wanted to do the stuff I knew I was capable of. I’ve had a lot of practice the past month in Japan, we’ve just come back and after training and fighting with the high level of players there, I was prepared to come, perform and fight without any fear, there was nothing holding me back.
It is always a pleasure to be hosted in Estonia and the EJU are happy to have this event back in the calendar following the break since 2019 due to covid restrictions. We can also look forward to another prime event as the Junior European Championships will take place in Estonia in 2024, the last prime event was in fact the cadet equivalent in 2013.
Author: Thea Cowen