As much as the first day of competition at the Junior European Cup in GRAZ (AUT) had been dominated by the underdogs, the favourites prevailed on Sunday. In the end, the Georgian anthem was played three times. With 4 x gold, 1 x silver and 4 x bronze, Georgia was thus also the clear winner in the medal table. Host Austria finished in fourth place with a total of five medals (including gold by Elena Dengg/-70).
The final block on the second day of competition started with the favourite Merve AZAK (-48/TUR), reigning European champion and world junior ranking leader. The 19-year-old Turkish celebrated her second win of the season (after Prague in June). Only in the semifinal against Rafaela Batista from Brazil did Azak have to fight for the full regular four minutes, all her other fights, including the final against Sofia MAZZOLA (ITA), ended early. After 2:12 minutes and two waza-ari scores the duel for gold was over.
The Georgian happy end – with three gold medals on Sunday – was fixed by Shalva GURESHIDZE (+100), as Azak a reigning Junior European Champion and world ranking leader. Just like last year at the premiere in Graz, the 19-year-old won clearly in Austria. The number one needed just 3:48 minutes on the tatami for his three Ippon victories.
Fellow countryman Luka BABUTSIDZE (-81) also had a flawless record. Ranked second in Prague four weeks ago, in his first appearance this year, Babutsidze stormed from success to success in the Styrian capital. He won all of his six fights early. The longest one, in the quarter-finals against Marcell DEMETER (HUN), lasted 3:04 minutes.
Mikheil JAPARIDZE (-100) was responsible for the third Georgian success within 90 minutes.
From the point of view of the hosts Austria, Verena HIDEN (-57) wrote the story of the day. The Junior European Championship bronze medallist from Prague could hardly train the last two weeks, suffered from an ear infection and only confirmed her start on Friday. In front of her mother Monika, the 20-year-old was only beaten in the final by top seed Bianca REIS (BRA). “This second place counts as a victory for me. I am extremely exhausted, but also very happy!”
ÖJV Sports Director Markus Moser was beaming along with Verena Hiden: “Last year we ended up with two bronze medals. This time we won five medals, including one gold. That is an excellent result for our team, ranked as the third best European nation behind Georgia and Italy.”
Just one more note: The Austrian Judo Federation has to start looking for a new under-21 national coach with immediate effect. Felipe Kitadai, Brazilian Olympic medallist, will leave Judo Austria after the European Junior Championships in September in The Hague (NED). Moser: “The job advertisement can be downloaded on our federation website already.”
Author: EJU Media