One of the weightclasses where Europe expects a gold medal in the U90kg for men. But it’s not easy for Ilias Iliadis to deal with the pressure. He is the World Champion and the 2004 Olympic Champion, in another era, another weight class. The Olympic Games will be extremely tough to win with smart sharks such as Masashi Nishiyama from Japan, Dilshod Choriev from Uzbekistan and the strong Tiago Camilo from Brazil. If it is not Iliadis than other European may take the victory.
Who’s the best judoka at 1 August in London’s ExCel?
The 25-year old Iliadis won the gold on home turf at the 2004 Olympic Games and is the 2011 and 2010 world champion. The Georgian-born judoka is the current world number one but succumbed surprisingly to unheralded Christophe Lambert (GER) in the round of 16 at the European championships earlier this year. Iliadis also wants to make up for his disappointing showing at the Olympic Games in Beijing when he was eliminated in the preliminaries.
Iliadis knows the qualities of the Georgian Varlam Liparteliani, 23, comes with fresh confidence to London following his win at the European championships earlier this year in Chelyabinsk. He disappointed at the 2011 world championships, loosing early on. The Georgian beat the Greek twice before in their four previous bouts. The Georgian won 19 out of 22 registered fights this year and is the number four ranked judoka. He won the most matches of all participants in the Olympic qualifying period. Liparteliani is coupled with Asley Gonzalez from Cuba based on the Olympic seeding.
Masashi Nishiyama (JPN), 27, has not yet competed at world championships but rose to world number three by winning major international tournaments. He beat Iliadis earlier this year and his last defeat in international competition dates back to February 2011.
Other European Challengers for gold are Kirill Denisov (RUS), 24, who made the world podium in 2010 and 2011 and finished fifth in 2011. He may not be in a great shape, but is experienced enough to beat the best in this once of a lifetime chance. Denisov is however in the same poule with Iliadis.
Roman Gontyuk (UKR), 28, knows what it is to perform at the Olympic Games. He is the reigning Olympic bronze medallist U81kg and the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, both in the -81kg. Since moving up to the -90kg in fall 2008, he has yet to win a major international title, but might rise to the occasion in London as he knows how to peak.
Elkhan Mammadov mainly won his points at home in Baku where he both won the Grand Prix as the Masters last year, so he can perform under pressure and beat Iliadis twice. His tracklist mainly contains fifth places but is always stable and close to a medal. He is the oldest of the 8 seeded players and matched with Nishiyama.
Other Europeans who have qualified are Christophe Lambert who surprised at the Europeans with spectacular judo and defeated Iliadis. Roberto Meloni who brings in his experience but hasn’t competed with these participants a lot. Marcus Nyman isn’t name and is for sure a young European who may be able to be important in the field. He is able to win prices in the Grand Prix circuit and defeated Liparteliani twice. He should get confident from his previous wins and constant hard work of last months.
Iliadis is Europe’s role model and it would be fantastic if all expectations could be met.
As mentioned an exciting day, maybe the most European day of the tournament with hopes for European gold in the men, but maybe even more in the women’s division.
French Lucie Decosse dominated the Olympic qualification period from the start with three Grand Slam victories in Paris since then. Only this year she finished second losing to Haruki Tachimoto (JPN). She is in the same side with Edith Bosch, the Dutch rival of Decosse. Over and over again they haven’t fought eachother, only in the World Championships final where Decosse won. Bosch dominates where Decosse doesn’t fight and vice versa. The tall Dutch already won two Olympic medals, Decosse won silver in 2008 still fighting U63kg. Now she is the favourite, but she showed at the Worlds in Paris she can deal with that role.
Europe created good conditions to become the strongest in the world. Since 2005 all World Championships excepted for Yuri Alvear’s (COL) surprise in 2009 came from Europe. Alvear is among the participants but not expected on the medal stage. More likely are more European challengers such as Rasa Sraka (seeded 4th) or Hungarian hotshot Anett Meszaros. Nice for the crowd, but less for Europe she is in the same poule with Bosch.
Tachimoto may meet Chinese Fei Chen, one of the youngest of all judoka, aged 21. Typical for this category, the Europeans are the oldest; Blanco, Sraka, Bosch, Decosse are all 30 or older.
Katarzyna Klys (POL) would sign for a repetition of her performance at the European Championships where she reached the final against Bosch. Cecilia Blanco (ESP) is always close to the podium, and may hurt someone else, but is not likely to be on the golden stage. Maybe she can eliminate the danger from others as she beat both double Asian Champion Ye-Sul Hwang (KOR) and Brazil’s Maria Portela, two very dangerous outsiders for a medal. Portela seems to have found the right form for London claiming the Pan Am title as well as the Grand Slam of Moscow this year. She won the slightly unimportant test event in London, but at least she knows what it is to fight in the London Olympic environment.
Follow the excitement at 1 August; the European day.