31 October 2018


U23 European Judo Championships


This year will see over 300 athletes from across the continent in the city of Györ, Hungary, for the U23 European Championships 2018.

Hungary has opened it’s doors once again to the judo community, following a very successful senior European Championships in 2013 and a tremendous World Championships event only last year in Budapest. Györ made it’s sporting mark last year for the European Youth Olympic Festival, hosting many judoka for the special experience, even welcoming some of the athletes back for these U23 European Championships.

Following an astounding five weeks of judo around the globe, the younger generation have proved time and time again that they aren’t to be overlooked. Europe had multiple successes in the World Championships in Baku amongst the younger players including Daria BILODID (UKR), Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP), Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA) and the local Azerbaijan athlete, Hidayet HEYDAROV (AZE). The waves of talent continue to ripple through the continent producing world medallists at junior level as well as senior. Though we wont be welcoming the aforementioned athletes in Hungary this week, spectators will not be left disappointed with the abundance of high class performance athletes that will take to the tatami during the three day event.

Day One
The -60kg Georgian athlete, Jaba PAPINASHVILI will be motivated by his senior team mates following a triple Gold in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last week.

Day one will see the lighter weight categories open the U23 European Championships. In the strong -60kg weight category, Jaba PAPINASHVILI (GEO) will be competing. The Georgian junior competitor recently took a bronze medal in the Junior World Championships as well as a bronze medal from the Junior European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. The young athlete follows in the footsteps of the senior team as they rejoined the circuit this year, having a successful World Championships and taking golden glory three times in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last week. PAPINASHVILI is no stranger to senior success either, achieving a silver medal position in the Antalya Grand Prix this year.

Junior European silver medallist, Eteri LIPARTELIANI (GEO) is fighting in the -57kg category.

Georgia is known for the strength of their mens team but has been developing their young women, including Eteri LIPARTELIANI in the -57kg category. It seems the talent isn’t just reserved for the young men as LIPARTELIANI proved she can achieve that of her male counterparts, securing a Junior European silver medal. She will be looking to add another European achievement to her tally this weekend.

She may come in to contact with British athlete, Josie STEELE on her way to a medal contest. STEELE recently pleased a home crowd at the Glasgow European Open, defeating World and Olympic medallist Automne PAVIA (FRA) in the final to take gold. She has history in Györ as she secured a bronze medal in the European Youth Olympic Festival, could she repeat her success?

Day Two

Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) will be demonstrating his explosive skills in the -73kg category following a hard earned silver medal in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam just last week. The 2018 Paris Grand Slam winner is consistently proving his worth on the tatami, currently ranked #8 in the world. The 22 year old follows in the success of the women’s team in Kosovo and proudly shows the growing diversity within his country’s national team. He will be joined by two other Kosovo representatives in the mens categories, Andi ARTANI in the -90kg and Shpati ZEKAJ in the -100kg category.

Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) has made leaps this year in the -73kg category climbing up to #8 in the World Ranking.

Israel will be coming in strong in the women’s -63kg category with Inbal SHEMESH. 2018 has seen a series of triumphs for SHEMESH, over the course of the year, the Israeli athlete has taken gold in the Bratislava European Cup, not before taking first place in the Warsaw European Open. The Agadir Grand Prix posed some difficulty for SHEMESH but failed to keep her from medalling. Though just missing out on a medal in the U23 European Championships in Podorica 2017, she has developed in tournaments of higher standard over the last twelve months and she could be the one to beat this weekend in Hungary.

The 81kg category has an array of fantastic competitors including Tim GRAMKOW (GER). Taking a bronze recently in the Cancun Grand Prix, the German has consistently medalled over the past couple of years in continental events, taking the gold in the Madrid European Open earlier this year. He is gradually moving in to the higher scoring competitions which are inevitably harder in nature, taking on the highest ranked athletes to find his place on the senior circuit.

Sara RODRIGUEZ (ESP) had an unfortunate encounter in her third round contest in the World Championships this year in Baku, losing to the eventual bronze medallist, ONO Yoko (JPN). This wasn’t before putting on an incredible performance in the -70kg category. The Madrid European Open gold medallist came back strong from injury this year. The success and development of the Spanish national team was highlighted in the World Championships with a men’s gold in the -90kg category, more recent events have cemented the growth of the younger team.

Michaela POLLERES (AUT) will be looking to make last years silver a gold in the -70kg category.

Depending on the result of the draw, Rodriguez could potentially come up against Michaela POLLERES (AUT), the pair have fought only once before with the Spanish athlete coming out on top. The Austrian athlete has a plethora of results to her name this year including a Senior European Championship bronze, Cancun Grand Prix gold and most recently a Grand Slam bronze in Abu Dhabi. Since stepping on to the international circuit as a cadet, POLLERES has dominated the majority of her tournaments, she will be hoping to take home the gold this weekend as she lost out in the final last year to Hilde JAGER (NED).

Day three

The third and final day of the U23 European Championships will see the heavy weight categories take to the tatami.

Notably, Yahor VARAPAYEU (BLR) will be competing in the -90kg category. VARAPAYEU narrowly missed out on medal in the European Championships in Tel Aviv earlier in the year, accepting defeat from Theodoros TSELIDIS (GRE) in the quarter final and Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) in the bronze contest. However, he is no stranger to success on the senior circuit, taking home a silver medal in the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam and a gold in the European Open in Prague.

Young British athlete, Harry LOVELL-HEWITT will be looking to improve on his most recent performances, somewhat suffering after a successful start to the year. Great Britain could pick up a medal in this -90kg category, LOVELL-HEWITT having already proved his abilities in the Coimbra and Kaunas European Cup tournaments with silver accomplishments as well as a gold medal in Lignano.

Brigita LJUBA (CRO) has stepped back on to the tatami in the -78kg category recently and is here to prove she’s still got it.

Brigita LJUBA – formerly MATIC – (CRO) will compete in the -78kg category. LJUBA was missed from the circuit the past year after taking time off to start a family and welcoming her son in 2018. The Croatian consistently medalled prior to her break and has jumped right back in, warming up in the Malaga European Cup, taking the bronze. This young mother will certainly be looking to establish her position again as a regular medallist and seems confident as ever that this will be the case.

Austria continue to show their wealth of talent in the heavier weight categories, Aaron FARA in the -100kg and Stephan HEGYI in the +100kg will be present on the third day of competition. FARA took away a bronze medal from the Cancun Grand Prix and will be hoping to add to his medal tally and take the U23 title.

HEYGI competed in the Senior European Championships 2018, taking a bronze, undoubtedly the young athlete will be focussing on a gold in this U23 event. The +100kg competitor has also taken a silver in Hungary this year in the Budapest Grand Prix as well as a Junior World silver in the Bahamas only this month, it would appear the Austrian is on the path to gold.

It was a Senior European bronze for HEYGI (AUT) in Tel Aviv, Israel, will he be able to make it a gold in the +100kg category in Györ this weekend?

President of the Hungarian Judo Association, Laszlo Toth stated, “It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Hungarian Judo Association to welcome competitors, officials and spectators to these European Judo Championships for U23’s being staged this year in Györ, Hungary.”

Join us via the European Judo Union website as well as our social media outlets to follow the athletes throughout the event in the Audi Arena in Györ.

By Thea Cowen, 31st October 2018