11 February 2023


Sofia European Open 2023

Today, the new season in the calendar of the European Judo Union officially started in the oldest country in Europe, Bulgaria. Traditionally, the beginning of the year is reserved for the European Open in Sofia, where 399 judokas from 43 different countries gathered. Fans of the country of the oldest gold treasure in the world were just spectacular today, cheering from the heart for their home favourites but also giving applause to the most attractive competitors in the Asics Arena.

The fantastic atmosphere pushed the domestic competitors as well, pulling out the last atoms of strength with their shouts, clapping, and jumping. The 31 year-old Bulgarian favourite Ivelina ILIEVA, who fought in the -57kg category, gave the home fans the most reason to rejoice. Not so long ago, in September last year, ILIEVA won a bronze medal at the European Open in Oberwart (AUT), followed by a bronze medal at the IJF Grand Slam in Baku (AZE), today she once again confirmed her quality in Sofia, where she won the gold medal in front of the home audience.

Ivelina ILIEVA (BUL) © Kostadin Andonov

I’m happy because I’m at home, my family is also here, I’m very happy! I truly hope that my good results will continue, but of course I would like to have more results at the higher level. My goals are events such as European Championships, Grand Prixs or Grand Slams and of course to keep up in qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris. Next week I will be competing at the IJF Grand Slam in Tel Aviv (ISR) and afterwards in Tashkent.

The most populated weight division today was the men’s category up to 66kg, and among them there was one new name that we will certainly have the opportunity to hear much more often in the future. 20 year-old Mykyta HOLOBORDOKO from Ukraine won the gold medal today. A humble young man, who could barely catch his breath after the exhausting final fight, but that did not stop him from commenting on the whole day right after.


This is a very hard competition and of course after the whole day I’m very happy. I was training so much for this medal and now I won it, all my rivals today were so strong and very well prepared. For me this is first gold, last year I won silver but at a European Cup, this is very incredible for me!

Six fights, golden score, incredible dominance by the young Ukrainian. We asked where and how he managed to find motivation after almost nine minutes of fighting against the experienced Kazakh, Gumar KYRGYZBAEV.

I don’t know, today I was fighting for my country, this gave me motivation. Hopefully soon you will see me at the IJF World Judo Tour, this is only the start for me.

At three o’clock in the afternoon, the official opening of the competition was held, attended by Deputy Minister of Sports Mr. Petar GEORGIEV, President of the Bulgarian Judo Federation, Rumen STOILOV and President of the European Judo Union, Dr. László TÓTH, who officially opened the competition.

BJF President Rumen STOILOV, EJU President Dr László TÓTH, Deputy Minister of Sports Petar GEORGIEV © Kostadin Andonov

Ukraine took the lead on the medal table after the first day of competition with two gold medals, France is following up in second place while Spain took third position. The home country Bulgaria is holding fourth place with one gold and bronze medal. Tomorrow, competition starts at 09:00 and on the programme we have women’s categories; -70kg, -78kg, +78kg and men’s; -81kg, -90kg, -100kg, +100kg.


Author: Mario Krvavac