The Mixed Teams event got off to an exciting start, with three teams from Europe competing in the first round including the Netherlands, France and Austria.
First to conclude their round was the Dutch team, and with the Korean opponents winning the last of the six contests, both teams were even. This led to decider between Marhinde VERKERK (NED) and HAN Mi Jin (KOR). Unfortunately, the Korean had won the first bout and went on to win the second putting the Dutch out of the tournament.
A very difficult first round against France put the Austrian team out of the race but not before some spectacular wins; Michaela POLLERES defeated World Champion, Marie Eve GAHIE of France in the first round and Johannes PACHER won against World bronze medallist, Axel CLERGET (FRA). The Austrians ran out of luck at this point and the next four contests went in France’s favour.
Teams Russia and Azerbaijan also made it through their first rounds and on to nail-biting matches against Mongolia and Brazil respectively. Despite some incredible judo throughout the day, the European teams that made it in to the medal contests included France, Russia and Azerbaijan. Japan managed to storm their pool and semi final contest to face France. Azerbaijan made it through the repechage to meet the loser of the semi final against France which was Russia.
The first bronze contest between Azerbaijan and Russia was a swift endeavour for the 2017 Junior European and World Champion, Zelym KOTSOIEV against Inal TASOEV. This turned out to be the only win for Azerbaijan as Daria MEZHETSKAIA, Alena PROKOPENKO, Lechi EDIEV and Khasen KHALMURZAEV took four consecutive wins for the bronze medal win.
The final contest had the spectators on the edge of their seats and the athletes hanging from their tribunes. Going in to this final, Japan were the #1 seed, France the #2, and both defended their positioning well, making it in to the final block and with another head to head.
Cyrille MARET (FRA) and KAGUERA Kokoro (JPN) of the +90kg category were the first to compete, opening the final and creating a sensational atmosphere. The pair continued in to golden score with a shied a piece until KAGUERA ended the contest with well-timed ashi waza.
Next up was the impressive Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE of France. Despite coming up against daunting opponent, YOSHIDA Tsukasa, the current World silver medalist for Japan, CYSIQUE instantly took control of the contest and quickly scored an ippon and levelled the score for the French with o soto. The technique was so powerful and quick, it was reminiscent of her individual competition a matter of days ago in the -57kg category. This week the young Frenchwoman has defeated both the European Champion, MEZHETSKAIA, the World silver medallist YOSHIDA and claimed a worthy 5th place, losing out only to the new World Champion, Christa DEGUCHI (CAN) and current Olympic Champion, Rafaela SILVA (BRA).
ARAI Chizuru and HAMADA Shori both cemented wins for the Japanese in ne waza, both still sporting their World Champion, red back patches against current World Champions, Marie Eve GAHIE and Madeleine Malonga (FRA).
ONO Shohei defended his unbeaten status very quickly in the contest against Guillaume CHAINE, executing an uchi mata and tomoe nage to score twice with waza ari and take another win for the team.
Though HAMADA won the deciding contest for Japan, the longest was between double World bronze medallist, Axel CLERGET (FRA) and MURAO Sanshiro. Yet another final contest went in to golden score, both athletes cradling two shidos, however it was sheer grit and experience that won Frenchman CLERGET the contest.
After nine and a half minutes of fighting and attention from the doctors, CLERGET managed to overcome the Japanese on the ground and though there was a review from the referee commission, CLERGET got the submission from MURAO, making it one of the most exciting battles of the day, and what a way to end the World Judo Championships 2019.
Though we will miss out on a World Championships in 2020, we at the European Judo Union are very much looking forward to the European Championships in Prague as well as the Olympic Games in Tokyo, wishing all of our teams the best of luck.
Author: Thea Cowen