There were some big surprises today, especially as Matthias CASSE (BEL) a typical finalist, lost out in the repechage, Rustam ORUJOV (AZE) dropped out before the quarters and strong bet Andreja LESKI (SLO) was unable to play the tactical game to find a place on the podium. Instead there are some youngsters breaking through and weight-change successes to watch out for in the final block.
Manuel LOMBARDO (ITA) who is better known for his -66kg success has found his footing in the -73kg category, making his way to the final in the Antalya Grand Slam today. The Italian finds himself facing 19 year-old Giorgi TERASHVILI (GEO) who is placed 101 in the WRL. The youngster’s last tournament as a cadet was in Antalya in February 2020 and has since managed only one junior event before stepping on the IJF tour. A seventh place in the Portuguese Grand Prix followed by a silver in the Warsaw European Open this year has given him minimal senior experience but it seemed to matter little today. Can Terashvili take on the 2021 world silver medallist?
There is little surprise for Lucy RENSHALL (GBR) given her recent history, but it has been a great day for the ever-growing young talent from Hungary OZBAS Szofi. It will be an interesting final for the -63kg category which has been good to watch as we are missing many of the usual top athletes including Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) and Tina TRSTENJAK (SLO). Ozbas already has two grand slam bronze medals and will be delighted to add either a silver or gold to her collection, though we all know which she would prefer. It will be her best result to date and a great reason to celebrate this day.
The only category without a guaranteed gold for Europe is the -81kg group. Only Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR) is in this final for Europe, but he is certainly using the energy of fighting on home soil. The current European champion took the gold here last year and will undoubtedly plan on doing it again, but has a strong opponent to get past first, Guilherme SCHIMIDT (BRA) who was the beginning of Casse’s demise today.
Back in the game is Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) who had a strong semi final win against team mate Margaux PINOT. Gahie will most certainly be glad to find herself in a final of an IJF event, today is the first time since her world championship win in 2019, though it certainly hasn’t been as long since she picked up a medal after her Tel Aviv Grand Slam bronze this year. Facing the Frenchwoman is Bernadette GRAF (AUT) who has inched her way to the final of the -70kg category, defeating Maria PORTELA (BRA). Similarly, it has been a while for the Austrian to work her way in to a final, her silver in the Tel Aviv Grand Prix 2020 was her last opportunity. With both on form it will be a great watch.
The final block will continue at 16:00 CET at live.ijf.org.
Author: Thea Cowen