European nations managed to continue raking in the medals on day two of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2023, minus any gold medals however. Though they didn’t manage to place in the final of the -63kg category, which eventually saw Catherine BEAUCHEMIN PINARD (CAN) defeat Jing TANG (VHN), the bronze medals were awarded to Cristina CABANA PEREZ (ESP) and Lubjana PIOVESANA (AUT). It was the first grand slam medal of Cabana and the first under the new Austrian flag for Piovesana, and for both, important ranking points to put distance between themselves and their team mates in the Olympic race.
In the -73kg category, Akil GJAKOVA (KOS) looked back to his old form, storming through his opponents to take on Shakhram AHADOV (UZB) for the gold medal. Though the Kosovo athlete gave it his all to be on top of the podium, and an uchi mata attempt brought him very close but in the end, a blinding seoi nage from Ahadov sealed the win and Gjakova settled for silver. Interestingly, Gjakova took silver in this event in 2018 and hasn’t been able to make it on to the IJF World Tour podium since 2019 so there is still plenty to celebrate within the team, as well as those much needed ranking points which will be sure to move him up a few places in the world list and in a better position for Paris 2024.
In the remaining -70kg and -81kg categories, gold medals were awarded to neutral athletes; Madina TAIMAZOVA and David KARAPETYAN.
Taimazova is the current Olympic bronze medallist and added this third grand slam gold to her collection, but it wasn’t an easy day and finally challenged Ida ERIKSSON (SWE). For the 25 year-old Swedish athlete, this was her first medal fight in a grand slam, her only other IJF World Tour medal contest was in the Portugal Grand Prix at the beginning of the year when she claimed bronze. On her way to the final, Eriksson defeated the likes of Olympic and world medallist, Masters champion, Michaela POLLERES (AUT), leaving no doubt that she was here for a medal. It was an unfortunate conclusion with the accumulation of three shidos for Eriksson, however this is her first event since an elbow dislocation earlier in the year and it seems things are looking up.
Frank DE WIT (NED) was the final opponent for Karapetyan, and for De Wit, this is a good place. Winning the Junior World Championships and the Grand Slam here before, he was hoping that his golden streak would continue, however the 2020 Junior European Champion had an answer for every one of De Wit’s attempts. The initial waza ari score on the board for Karapetyan cemented his first place position, disarming his opponent with a small ko soto gari before reaching his leg behind further in order to lift and throw De Wit backward.
It wasn’t the most successful day for the European haul, but there is still much to celebrate and many firsts for those on the podium. The third and final day of competition will start at 10:00 local time (08:00 CEST) at JudoTV.com.
Author: Thea Cowen