Europe were off to a blinding start in the final block of the Jerusalem World Judo Masters 2022, securing 13 out of a possible 20 medals, three gold.
Firstly in the -48kg category, two bronze medals as well as a gold were taken by Assunta SCUTTO (ITA), Catarina COSTA (POR) and finally, Shirine BOUKLI (FRA).
Boukli was up against KOGA Wakana (JPN), and going off the previous head to heads, favour lay with Koga. This year however has been a rollercoaster for Boukli, though she topped the podium on multiple occasions, including taking the European title in Sofia, the world championships was not what she hoped for but made a point to finish the year on a high and venture for that number one world ranking spot.
After the World Championships, I needed this sensation, this winning feeling and it has been an amazing day. I was very determined in the final because it is my fourth time against Koga and the three before I lost, I really wanted to and needed to win, it was an important day and a very big final, I love this.
In the -60kg category, only one medal went to the European Judo Union and that was from Balabay AGHAYEV (AZE) as he took on team mate Turan BAYRAMOV for the bronze medal.
We then moved on to the -52kg category where PUPP Reka (HUN) stepped on the tatami to claim her bronze medal as both opponents in the parallel repechage were eliminated due to disqualification. The arena really came to life for the second of the bronze contests as Gefen PRIMO represented the home nation, but it wasn’t going to be an easy steal as she faced Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) who eventually took the win.
An all-European final then ensued between Chelsie GILES (GBR) and Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) both of whom stood on the world podium this year, Giles in second place and Krasniqi in third. The Kosovar athlete has made a seamless return to her former category after taking the Olympic title in the -48kg weight but today proved she is back, with a bang.
Krasniqi is a Masters queen, this isn’t her first, but fourth title in a Masters event but she can now claim this as her first in the -52kg category. It was a tough final but an early score in the first 15 seconds against the Olympic and world medallist Giles was enough to put Krasniqi on top of the podium.
I feel great, Masters is my favourite competition and I prepare a lot for it. I have wonderful memories of this competition so I look forward to fighting here. I have fought with Chelsie many times when I was in the -52kg category, I lost to her in the semi finals of the world championships in ne waza, Chelsie is doing a great job, she is a great judoka, taking medals everywhere in the major championships and I think both of us are growing more and more together so I look forward to fighting her in the future.
The first medal to celebrate in the -66kg category was from Walide KHYAR (FRA) and then from Denis VIERU (MDA), both gave stunning performances and cemented their status, but what everyone was waiting for was the final.
Baruch SHMAILOV, the home favourite and performing in front of his wife, family and friends as well as his Israeli fans was ready to take the title today. Last year in Doha it was a bittersweet end as he finished the tournament with a silver medal, however he wasn’t going to simply let it slip away again. Against him was the surprise of the tournament, French entry Daikii BOUBA. Throughout his preliminaries he was taking down some of the more successful athletes and having just come back from surgery, his expectations weren’t so high for himself but seemingly the lack of pressure allowed him to flourish.
Bouba gave his all in the final but it wasn’t enough to take on the strength and wealth of experience of Shmailov as well as the spectators. Instead he settled for his first medal on the IJF tour, a greatly-sought after silver medal in the IJF Masters. As for Shmailov, the celebrations began as the crowd counted down the final seconds with his waza ari score on the board, from outside the field of play, there was no doubt to anyone who had taken gold as the arena erupted and he was met off the tatami by President of the Israeli Judo Federation, Moshe PONTE. This was Israel’s first medal of the tournament and a brilliant one at that.
It was the best feeling that can be, to win in front of all of these people, I’m happy that I was in a good shape to perform for them all, especially in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, I hope I gave all the love back to the people. Today was important to me, I have taken three medals in the Masters tournament but never the gold, so I’m happy to seal today with this and I hope to keep them coming!
In the final, the Frenchman was quite a surprise we didn’t see coming but as always, we analysed every athlete, I know him from competition but I’ve never fought him, so myself and Oren Smadga sat and went through his contests and came prepared for the win.
In the -57kg category, a loss from Nora GJAKOVA (KOS) for bronze meant that the only medal coming back to Europe was for Sarah Leonie CYSIQUE (FRA). It was up to both herself and fellow finalist Christa DEGUCHI (CAN) who would be leaving with the title. It was a great head to head with neither athletes picking up penalties but in a very unfortunate twist, Cysique picked up a contest-ending injury and Deguchi left as the Masters champion. Nevertheless, an impressive preliminary performance from Cysique placed France at the top of the medal table.
Author: Thea Cowen