The women’s weight class U57kg has always been European. However there’s one judoka who dominated everyone: Kaori Matsumoto from Japan. Not many can beat her: Ioulietta Boukouvala (GRE) did once this Olympic cycle, Hedvig Karakas (HUN) did, Rafaela Silva (BRA) was able to beat her last year in Dusseldorf and Telma Monteiro (POR) beat her twice! Monteiro is Europe’s best asset in this category. Monteiro is the current European Champion. For the fourth time she was crowned as Europe’s best. She is Portugals proud and carrying the flag of her nation at the opening ceremony. Four years ago in Beijing she finished ninth U52kg. She found back her form and despite some injuries she is again top of the list in Europe and poised to meet Matsumoto in the dream final. It would be for the first that a Portuguese would reach the final in an Olympic judo tournament. That motivation may lead to a victory.
“Que há-de guiar-te à vitória!” as sang in the Portuguese national anthem for years.
There are some other candidates who want to listen to their anthem, though but most from Europe: Automne Pavia is the strongest in France despite heavy competition. The tall French won bronze at the Europeans this year and at the Grand Slam in Paris. In June she won the Bucharest World Cup but without real competition. She is paired in the same group with Austrian Sabrina Filzmoser, last year’s European Champion. Big experience which should help her to come to an extreme performance.
Corina Caprioriu from Romania can be good, but can be average sometimes. This category is extremely strong and anyone can win. Four years ago Italy’s Giulia Quintavalle won quite surprisingly, so Europe has to defend its title. In 2004 Yvonne Boenisch (GER) won the title, in 2000 Isabel Fernandez. So for twelve years, this category was won by Europe.
There are a few outsiders who could go for a medal as well: British
Sarah Clark has the experience (the oldest of all participants) and the public behind her, we hope it helps. Giulia Quintavalle is apparently able to stunt, but will she do it a second time; It’s an art to peak at the right time, so why not. Hedvig Karakas is the judoka with the most matches of everyone in this Olympic cycle. She competed almost everywhere, but this year she temporised and gained confidence with her win at the European Cup in Celje.
Miryam Roper is in a very good shape and is able to surprise, maybe she is not top of the world yet, but she has the ultimate German fighting spirit. Other Europeans to gain some pain are Zabludina (RUS), Gasimova (AZE), Bellorin (ESP) and Dzukic (SLO).
Although the men’s U73kg is a typical category dominated by Asians, the Europeans do perform well when it comes to miracles. In 2008 in Beijing Elnur Mammadli defeated Wang Ki-Chun (KOR). In 2004 Vitaly Makarov (RUS) came close with a final spot and in 2000 Giuseppe Maddaloni surprised Italy with a great Olympic title. In Europe we have to be able to get the best out of the situation. Close to France Ugo Legrand can be this European candidate for gold. He is doing well, growing by the year and he showed in Chelyabinsk that he is able to finish a final with gold. Previously he won bronze at the World Championships in Bercy. Now the ExCel can be his Bercy. But the same counts for Dex Elmont. The Dutchman is one of Holland’s expected medals and close to London he will be supported by many Dutch and by his brother Guillaume, fighting U81kg. Twice he was in the World Championships final and can be expected among the top candidates for gold. The competition for the fellows comes from the East: Wang Ki-Chun (KOR) and Riki Nakaya (JPN) the current World Champion.
Mansur Isaev (RUS) was actually the only one who was quite sure in the Russian team of going to London. Well positioned, results good enough to qualify and hardly competition. Isaev has won a World bronze medal in 2009, but furthermore results don’t have a golden edge. Still he is a candidate and can hurt the others. He is paired in the same side with Sainjargal (MGL) one of his favourite opponents, he beat him 3 times. Belgian Dirk van Tichelt is still able to finish high but didn’t show that this year. Last year he won bronze in Tokyo’s Grand Slam, where Isaev finished second in between the Japanese Akimoto and Nakaya. Dex Elmont was fifth, maybe a likely situation in London preferably without one Japanese. Everybody was there including Legrand (7th) and Jurakobilov (UZB) also an outsider. Comparable to the World Championships results where Nakaya was the overall winner.
Non seeded Europeans are strong Portuguese Joao Pina, who knows what can happen on the same day when Telma Monteiro will fight! Will they inspire eachother? Uematsu (ESP), Soroka (UKR), Voelk (GER) are outsiders for a medal.
What a strong competition! Of all weight categories, the U73kg class had the least victories all tournaments in the Olympic cycle from 2008 until today. Does it mean there are always other fighters who win the events, does it mean they are hiding? We will see it at 30 July in London’s ExCel!