22 April 2024


European Judo Championships Seniors Zagreb 2024


On the second day of the Senior European Championships 2024, there will only be four weight categories competing, however they are the most populated. Sporting the greatest number are the men’s -73kg category.

Eyes will be on defending European Champion, an individual with three senior titles, U23, junior and cadet accolades, not to mention the top position in the world ranking list, Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE). In his past five events, four gold medals came his way, and the 26 year-old has  only been on the rise. He will however, have to compete against some of the best in the world to take a third consecutive title. 

In second seeded position is Lasha SHAVDATUASHVILI (GEO), already looking ahead to a fourth Olympic medal in Paris, the 2012 Olympic Champion who was also first Georgian to earn the trifecta of European, World and Olympic titles, is one of the most senior in the category and most successful. Most recently he stunned the home crowd of Tbilisi as he earned the Grand Slam gold and is looking ready for his performance this week. 

Of course the competition doesn’t end with the top two seeds, not even in the top eight, with the likes of Paris Grand Slam silver medallist, Giorgi CHIKHELIDZE (GEO) who is still only #58 in the WRL. European Open Championships gold medallist, Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) sits just outside of the seeded positions and could cause early heartache for anyone above him. Petru PELIVAN (MDA) secured a bronze medal in the Montpellier edition, losing out only to Heydarov, but defeating team mate Adil OSMANOV who has been going from strength to strength, and is now at #16 in the WRL, earning his a seeded position in Zagreb. 

Giorgi CHIKHELIDZE (GEO) © Gabi Juan

Sandwiched between the Moldovan super squad is Makhmadbek MAKHMADBEKOV (AIN), and below are 2021 European finalist, Tohar BUTBUL (ISR), 21 year old, two-time Grand Slam finalist, Danil LAVRENTEV (AIN) and Rashid MAMMADALIYEV (AZE) rounding off the top eight. 

Moving on to the -81kg category. It has been a long-awaited return for Tato GRIGALASHVILI (GEO), arguably one of the best technicians on the IJF World Tour. After finishing in second position in Montpellier, losing out to the 2021 European Champion, Vedat ALBAYRAK (TUR), we have missed him in competition. Already Grigalashvili has two senior titles, and looks for a third, which may have greater importance in his Olympic preparation, and of course be a test after a five month hiatus. 

Looking to topple the mighty mountain that is Grigalashvili, this category is pumped full of potential, starting with Azerbaijan’s Zelim TCKAEV, who stole the show in Paris, finishing in second place, nevertheless affirming his place among the pack leaders. Similarly, Olympic medallist Shamil BORCHASHVILI (AUT), will show up fighting fit in an attempt to steal the continental title. Sagi MUKI (ISR) rounds off the top four, and is closely followed by Antonio ESPOSITO (ITA) and defending champion, Albayrak. Closing out the seeded places are Frank DE WIT (NED) and Attila UNGVARI (HUN), 

Outside of seeding lies great excitement, Alpha Oumar DJALO (FRA) never gives anything less than his best, leaving his heart on the tatami and bringing the spectators with him regardless of the result. Joao FERNANDO (POR) had been looking for his first Grand Slam medal and finally claimed a bronze in Antalya, giving the impression that the chase may have come to an end, and his residency begun. 

We also have the likes of Adrian SULCA (ROU) who has found a new home in the -81kg category, and a familiar name who has been climbing the ranks, looking for similar success to his father is Giacomo GAMBA (ITA). 


Author: Thea Cowen