It wasn’t the end to the tournament that Europe hoped for, and the podium of the mixed team event didn’t mirror the individual table, but it did show how the collective became strong enough to take on the strongest nations.
Japan, as many may have predicted took the gold medal against France, a predictable opponent who threw together a fantastic team, a mix of the senior and junior with the likes of Cyrille MARET leading the charge, caring for and motivating his younger team mates.
Though each of their performances were brilliant throughout the preliminaries, one in particular stood out.
Against the Georgian team there were some big surprises including the sighting of the -90kg Olympic medal hopeful, Lasha BEKAURI in the open category. Unfortunately for the young masters gold medallist, he was up against Cedric OLIVAR who left no for room for error in the opening round. It ended in injury so immediately the Georgian team were without a team member.
The remaining team members, including Eteri LIPARTELIANI; Avtandili TCHRIKISHVILI and Nugzari TATALASHVILI, managed to secure wins meaning that it was a draw. The Georgian team were visibly nervous, if the +90kg category was drawn it would be an automatic loss.
As the arena watched the screen, the -90kg category was drawn and the Georgian side were perhaps celebrating a little prematurely. This only motivated the French even more, and Francis DAMIER who had already suffered defeat to Tchrikishvili wanted revenge.
2019 world champion, Marie Eve GAHIE was one of the leaders of this young team,
We could see the Georgian team already celebrating the result of the draw, he had won before but Francis [Damier] won it for us in the end, for the team.
It started strong for both but in just less than a minute it became a dance of sorts as a counter was countered! An action which looked in favour of Tchrikishvili ended in favour of Damier, an extremely strong and controlled result from the 19 year-old Frenchman. The 2020 European junior champion had plenty motivation for this contest;
I really wanted revenge in this contest, to win for my team. I knew I had it in me to do it, our first contest was close and then, in the decider I proved that I could.
With the Olympic Games just around the corner, most of the teams had a good selection of junior athletes to give them the experience of a world championships event, some shone very brightly and made a point that following Tokyo, they’d be making their mark on the senior circuit and had plans on qualification for Paris 2024.
French coach, Larbi BENBOUDAOUD was very happy with the performance of the team;
It is a good result for this team. As you can see the athletes are very young, some juniors and for the most of them it is the first time at a world championships. We spared our top athletes not to have any risk regarding the preparation for the Olympic Games. For this young team it is a great experience and I am very happy about their performance and of course about the silver medal.
Japan walked away with the gold yet again, but Gahie is convinced that France will win, she doesn’t know when or where, but the time will come when Japan must accept defeat at the hands of the French judoka.
Author: Thea Cowen