22 April 2024


European Judo Championships Seniors Zagreb 2024


Top world ranking positions, world titles, Grand Slam medals and seeding aside, the pressure is dialling up for the Croatian women’s team who have been claiming 2024 as their own, and now have the monumental job of taking a European title. 

Many may assume that there is a home advantage, and to some extent it is true, but with those home comforts comes the added feeling of potential disappointment. Fortunately for these ladies, Zagreb, and Croatia, has played host to major championships and IJF World Tour events in their plentiful, so they are well prepped and raring to go! 

In the -63kg category, the strong Croatian duo includes Katarina KRISTO and Iva OBERAN. Only a few ranking places separate the pair, but Kristo has been making moves to widen that gap in 2024, putting her in the #8 seed position for the championships. Firstly she claimed a silver medal in the Paris Grand Slam, losing out only to Clarisse AGBEGNENOU (FRA) in the final. Later in Antalya she was actually dealt her team mate for the bronze medal, taking the win on this occasion. 

Katarina KRISTO (CRO) © Gabi Juan

However it won’t only be Oberan challenging her this week, both still vying for the Olympic place, but a powerful front awaits them in the form of the eight seeded athletes. Leading there charge is Gili SHARIR (ISR) who took silver in the last edition, and will be joined by team mate Inbal SHEMESH who is the #6 seed. OZBAS Szofi (HUN) narrowly missed out on a medal in Montpellier, but has secured bronze medals in each of her events this year, the 2023 World bronze medallist showing tremendous consistency. Similarly, the other World bronze medallist, 21 year-old, Joanne VAN LIESHOUT (NED) has been a regular podium placer, even winning her second Grand Prix gold in Upper Austria. 

Defending European Champion, Andreja LESKI (SLO) has an uphill battle on her hands, not quite performing to the best of her abilities so far in 2024, but has been more selective of her attendance given her security for the Olympic Games. In the remaining positions, Lubjana PIOVESANA (AUT) and Barbara TIMO (POR) are lining up. 

Andreja LESKI (SLO) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Now let’s sink our teeth in to the -70kg category. With potentially the most weight on her shoulders, the two-time World Champion and current WRL #1, Barbara MATIC (CRO) is leading the category, and is very happy with her performances, not only this year, but this cycle has served her well. After a stint off the tatami due to injury, we are pleased to welcome Lara CVJETKO in to the line up, the WRL #7 helped make history with Matic as the first all-Croatian world final. Both have the potential to raise the flag and hear the national anthem on the second day of the championships. 

That being said, they have a target on their backs, and focusing in on this are second and third seed, Elisavet TELTSIDOU (GRE) and Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER). The latter is also joined in the top eight by team mate Giovanna SCOCCIMARRO, the world silver medallist who has also been plagued with injury in this cycle. With a host of continental titles, at cadet and junior level, Ai TSUNODA ROUSTANT (ESP) is still in search of her first senior medal, and wouldn’t be totally off the cards either for the 2023 Paris Grand Slam winner who also swiped bronze medals in Tokyo and Antalya more recently. 

Margaux PINOT (FRA) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

Olympic medallist, Madina TAIMAZOVA (AIN) is also in the top eight, just above Margaux PINOT (FRA). Taimazova has medalled in these championships in 2020, 2021 and 2023, her best result the silver medal last year. Pinot however, has championed on two occasions, initially in the European Game in 2019, then a consecutive title came her way in 2020. 


Author: Thea Cowen