The debut event of the European Judo Tour 2024 began in Gyor, Hungary, the first of the Olympic qualifiers. Though most in attendance likely have sights set on the Los Angeles 2028 or perhaps even Brisbane 2032 for the youngest of entrants, there are some hoping to play catch up and collect points, no matter how few. Every little helps. An example of this is Maxime GOBERT (FRA), though the Paris selection has been made in the -66kg with Walide KHYAR, Gobert who is currently ranked #16 in the category, moved up to -73kg in the Portugal Grand Prix and looks to remain.
With the top Hungarian team already in preparation for the Baku Grand Slam next week, it was an opportunity for some of their younger competitors to make a name for themselves in front of the home crowd and senior team mates including OZBAS Szofi and SIPOCZ Richard, as well we former athletes KARAKAS Hedvig and the now-U23 coach, BOR Barna. They will be cheering on KELLER Rebeka (-52kg), SZEGEDI Daniel (-73kg) PONGRACZ Bence (-66kg) in the final block.
Keller is the only guaranteed medal however, earning her spot in the final against Lea METROT (FRA). In her semi final, she attacked Laura GOMEZ ANTONA (ESP) with a huge o soto gari, scoring waza ari and naturally transitioned in the osae komi to conclude the contest.
There were many impressive semi finals, setting us up for an exciting final block, Luca OTMANE (FRA) defeated Lukas REITER (AUT) in style with a huge harai maki komi for the first score, followed by sasae tsuri komi ashi to take his place in the -73kg final against KIM Chol Gwang (PRK). Similarly, Ariela SANCHEZ BENITEZ (ESP) executed an ippon-scoring tani otoshi against Alessia CORRAO (BEL) and will meet Natalia KROPSKA (POL) for -63kg gold. At -57kg, Paris Saint Germain representative, Martha FAWAZ (FRA) will take on Austria’s Laura KALLINGER, for the latter this is her first European Open final, whereas it’ll be Fawaz’ second opportunity and she will not want to settle for silver again. In the lightest of the women’s categories, the -48kg number one seed, Ellen SALENS (BEL) supported her ranking by making it to the final, and her final opponent will be Anais PERROT (FRA) who was seen most recently in the Paris Grand Slam, and although she didn’t make it too far, it was an incredible debut.
It was a long day for the -60kg and -66kg men’s categories who were still completing their preliminary rounds at 18:30, but the strongest survived, CHAE Kwang Jin (PRK) and Bart WELING (NED) will fight for the -60kg title in Gyor, and Marcus AUER (AUT) will try and best Thomas JAFFART (FRA) in the -66kg category.
There are a total of 35 nations competing in Gyor this weekend, covering four continents, so the variety of judo styles has already proved very entertaining, adding the likes of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Canada and South Africa to the mix has given the European athletes an extra challenge.
Author: Thea Cowen