It was a great first day for Europe, taking over half of the medal haul in Budapest, Hungary in the first qualifier on the continent.
First on the tatami peaking European interest was Mireia LAPUERTA COMAS (ESP) in the -48kg category. The 23 year-old has quite the collection of medals across all ages, as well as continental championship titles and medals. She has been putting in the work for many years, even as a very young athlete trying her hand in senior European cups, which developed to grand prix and grand slam events in 2018. This is now her second grand slam bronze medal and it looks likely they’ll keep coming.
Spain were owning this category as Julia FIGUEROA made her way to the final against TONAKI Funa (JPN). The contest may not have gone her way on this occasion, irregardless, these are some very important points to be collecting early on in the Olympic process.
In the -60kg category it was time for 2021 junior European champion Romain VALADIER PICARD (FRA) to take home his second grand slam medal. After some exchanges, the 19 year-old Frenchman almost skipped with his opponent and jumped in to a very wide stance drop morote seoi nage, moving in the same direction, the momentum scoring him a swift and undeniable ippon.
Tbilisi Grand Slam gold medallist, Temur NOZADZE (GEO) was up next, it was close between himself and Mongolian, ENKHTAIVAN Ariunbold but a soto makikomi put a waza ari on the board for the Georgian in the first half of the contest. The second score which earned him the bronze was a sharp ashi waza counter.
The final was between Lukhumi CHKHVIMIANI (GEO) and Jorge VERSTRAETEN (BEL). The pair held the top two seeding positions with the latter at number one, and on this occasion was very much the dominant athlete, controlling the pace, the gripping and did the lions share of attacks in the first three minutes. Chkhvimiani eventually found his place in the contest but it was just a little too late, Verstraeten stole the gold 21 seconds in to golden score with ko soto.
Gefen PRIMO (ISR) stepped on the tatami to compete for bronze for the second time in as many weeks, back in Ulaanbaatar she wasn’t so fortunate but today she wasn’t leaving without the medal. It took some time but eventually she threw her opponent Mascha BALLHAUS (GER) for a waza ari score and ended the contest in osaekomi.
The greatly anticipated final between home favourite PUPP Reka (HUN) and underdog Giulia CARNA (ITA) had the arena feeling electric. The cheers and horns from the fans psyched up their athlete to take the gold, which she managed with two uchi mata attempts, both scoring waza ari. It was a strong day for Pupp but what we can’t ignore is the incredible performance of 17 year old Carna. Only last year she took a junior world medal and today she saw out current European champion and Olympic bronze medallist Chelsie GILES (GBR). She gave her all in the final but the experience and home soil advantage was proven by the Hungarian. We usually associate the -52kg category with another Italian, Odette GIUFFRIDA but there is a new girl in town.
Israel claimed another medal in the -66kg category, this time from Tal FLICKER. He certainly seems to be back on form, wasting little time against the number one seed, Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO) as he fought through the repechage but struggled more against the Frenchman, Walide KHYAR. In the end it was decided on shidos.
Similarly to the -66kg, there was only one opportunity for a European medal in the -57kg category. Going head to head were Timna NELSON LEVY (ISR) and Telma MONTEIRO (POR). What had the potential to be a full four minute contest was cut off at the head, Nelson Levy took the medal in the first exchange, doubling up on her attacks with o soto gari in to a ko soto gake.
That is the end of day one but there is plenty more to come over this weekend! Preliminary rounds begin at 10:00 again tomorrow with all three tatami available to watch at live.ijf.org.
-48kg Medallists 🥇TONAKI Funa 🇯🇵 🥈FIGUEROA Julia 🇪🇸 🥉LAPUERTA COMAS Mireia 🇪🇸 🥉BAVUUDORJ Baasankhuu 🇲🇳
-60kg Medallists 🥇VERSTRAETEN Jorre 🇧🇪 🥈CHKHVIMIANI Lukhumi 🇬🇪 🥉VALADIER PICARD Romain 🇫🇷 🥉NOZADZE Temur 🇬🇪
-52kg Medallists 🥇PUPP Reka 🇭🇺 🥈CARNA Giulia 🇮🇹 🥉DELGADO Angelica 🇺🇸 🥉PRIMO Gefen 🇮🇱
-66kg Medallists 🥇ABE Hifumi 🇯🇵 🥈SUBHONOV Rakhimjon 🇺🇿 🥉FLICKER Tal 🇮🇱 🥉GANBOLD Kherlen 🇲🇳
-57kg Medallists 🥇FUNAKUBO Haruka 🇯🇵 🥈SILVA Rafaela 🇧🇷 🥉NELSON LEVY Timna 🇮🇱 🥉KLIMKAIT Jessica 🇨🇦
Author: Thea Cowen