It appears to make little difference the level of tournament right now, the entries are scaling regardless. In the Paris Grand Slam there was such an incredible entry it forced an 08:00 start on both days of competition, and now we look to the European Judo Tour, heading to Sofia, Bulgaria for the first of the European Opens in 2023. With only a couple of days to go, there are 437 entries from 45 nations.
Sofia played host to the senior European championships in April last year and pulled in an incredible crowd to support the best athletes in Europe, now this weekend we have a great variety, an enviable entry, with some fresh faces and more well-known names, especially for the hosts who are looking to collect medals over the two-day event in the Asics Arena.
Among the elite representing Bulgaria are the current U23 European champion and top seeded athlete of the tournament, Mark HRISTOV (-73kg), multiple-European medallist and the winner of the recent Almada Grand Prix in his new -90kg category, Ivaylo IVANOV and for the women, number one seeded in the -57kg category, Ivelina ILIEVA.
Other big names are joining the hosting stars, two of which will be close behind Hristov in the -73kg category; Alexandru RAICU and Adrian SULCA both of Romania, rising star Nataliia CHYSTIAKOVA (UKR) in -70kg and coming from outside the continent is Kelly DEGUCHI (CAN).
Certainly one to watch is GOZ Roland of Hungary in the -90kg category. Goz found success at junior level, with a constant head to head with the current Olympic champion, Lasha BEKAURI (GEO). It might have been a tougher transition for the Hungarian but he took bronze in the grand prix recently in Portugal, losing out only to the eventual champion Ivanov who he could find in a rematch this week.
Both days will undoubtedly bring great performances by seasoned athletes and new ones alike. The draw for the Sofia European Open will commence at 19:00 on the 10th of February with both days set to begin at 09:00 however this could be subject to change and will be announced in the live draw.
Author: Thea Cowen