Today is the third and final day of the Senior European Championships 2023 in Montpellier, France, and the last chance to see who will be crowned the new, or defending in the women’s case, champion.
There was a huge surprise in this category in the opening contest of the day as WRL #1 and current world champion, Luka MAISURADZE (GEO) suffered defeat at the hands of Mihael ZGANK (TUR) who went on to take a semi final spot against Nemanja MAJDOV (SRB). It was an well matched semi final with the 2019 European champion, Zgank looking in control but he made the mistake of allowing Majdov to take a strong grip, perfect for his huge o goshi, which scored an unquestionable ippon. For Majdov, this is his third final, and will not be happy settling for another silver medal.
Though one half of the Georgian entry fell at the first hurdle, current Olympic champion Lasha BEKAURI continued to carry the flag in to the semi final against Noel VAN T END (NED). It was an important contest for the Dutch athlete, the former world champion having been unable to pick up a continental championship medal in his career so far. His desire may have been great but the 2021 European champion, Bekauri earned a waza ari early in the contest, attaching with o uchi gari and switching to sumi gaeshi, surprising his opponent. Unfortunately for Van T End, he was unable to even the score and went in to the bronze medal contest against TOTH Krisztian (HUN).
Alina BOEHM (GER) came here today with one goal, to defend her European title. In Sofia last year she attested her win to good luck, winning her junior title in the same place. However today she proved that it wasn’t simply luck, as she ran through her half of the draw, defeating the current world champion, Inbar LANIR (ISR) in her quarter final and then moved on to Guusje STEENHUIS (NED) for a place in the final. It was a gruelling contest that ran in to golden score and a third shido was eventually awarded to the Dutch athlete.
World ranked number one and the top seed today, Alice BELLANDI (ITA) was carrying the torch for the Italian team, who hadn’t had a very successful week up until this point. Though there was potential for an all-German final with Anna-Maria WAGNER, Bellandi put a stop to it, executing a swift tai o toshi in the opening moments and managed to keep the lead. Now the question is whether or not she can defeat the other German entry and steal the European title.
The top seed of the -100kg category, Ilia SULAMANIDZE (GEO) did not disappoint. With family and plenty of fans in the crowd, he defeated his opponents, one by one until he met Peter PALTCHIK (ISR) in his semi final. It took some time to find his winning ways, then a well times spinning o uchi gari brought him the winning score and a place in the final. Already, the Georgian powerhouse has two junior titles as well as two U23 titles, now he is seeking to add a gold as a senior.
Joining Sulamanidze is Zelym KOTSOIEV (AZE). The semi final against Matvey KANIKOVSKIY (AIN) was particularly exciting, an early score on the board from Kotsoiev’s uchi mata immediately upped the tempo of the contest. In the last ten seconds, and after picking up two shidos, Kotsoiev managed a driving o uchi gari to seal his final fate.
Romane DICKO (FRA) was the final hope for the French women to take a gold medal and she battled it out against Marit KAMPS (NED) in the semi final, fuelled by the energy of the home crowd. Dicko bided her time but just before the half way mark managed to transition in to osae komi for her place in the +78kg final and a chance to earn her fourth senior European championship title.
Meeting Dicko in the final is the top seed, Raz HERSHKO (ISR). An o guruma, followed by a quick transition in to osae komi delivered Hershko her second opportunity in a senior European championships to take the gold medal. This will be a repeat of the 2022 final, and the pair have met three times in total, all going in favour of the French athlete, and in front of a home crowd she will want to make it a fourth win. Hershko will of course rise to the occasion to dash the dreams of the French crowd hoping to see a fifth gold for the team.
Leading the +100kg category today was Finnish sensation, Martti PUUMALAINEN, and he did not fail to continue in his bid for glory and to attain the coveted European title here in Montpellier. It looked like it could be close in his semi final against Belle SNIPPE (NED), but he took a double sleeve grip, attacked with seoi nage then changed direction, driving Snippe back for the win. This is Puumalainen’s first opportunity at a senior European medal, and with the roll he has been on as of recent, the IJF Masters champion has every hope of the gold medal.
That is, if he can find a way past former world champion and double European champion, Guram TUSHISHVILI (GEO). After a tough week for the team, all three men’s categories can boast a Georgian finalist, but the journey isn’t over yet to the top. Tushishvili has a great rival in the semi final, SIPOCZ Richard (HUN) who has an extensive collection of European titles at various levels, but not yet senior. The Hungarian opponent attacked with sasae tsurikomi ashi, but didn’t succeed in his rotation, and instead found himself countered by Tushishvili who then went on to the final.
Follow the final, final block at JudoTV.com at 16:00 local time to see the last of the 2023 European Championships crowned.
Author: Thea Cowen