Following a three-year break from the Matteo Pellicone Olympic Centre in Ostia, Rome, we are pleased to be back in action for the European Open 2023. Team Italy were also very pleased to have a great start to the event and managed to secure four medals on day one, one of which was a finalist.
Opening the final block was the -48kg category. Eva PEREZ SOLER (ESP) managed her day and her opponents very well, not only earning her a place in the final but eventually the gold medal. The 19 year-old had a tough line up today, and in both her semi final and final took on the People’s Republic of China, but ultimately, HAN Shuaixia. Though an aggressive contest, she controlled the pace, blocking an attack and countered with ura nage for a waza ari score which won her the gold. The youngster will next be in the Coimbra Junior European Cup.
I am so happy and excited I don’t have the words, I felt really good today and I’ve worked so hard for this medal.
Bronze medals were won by Raquel BRITO (POR) and GUO Zongying (CHN).
Samuel WAIZENEGGER (SUI) had a brilliant day in the -60kg category, finally meeting Lior RAFAILOV (ISR) for the gold medal contest. Though the head to head didn’t last till half time, it wasn’t clear which way the win would go, but finally extra effort from the Swiss athlete in ne waza to free the leg brought on the osae komi count. Two years ago, Waizenegger managed to find himself on the podium twice in continental open tournaments, once in the final losing out to Emiel JARING (NED), but today the result went the other way in their semi final contest. Now he can round off his collection with a well-deserved gold.
Maxime MERLIN (FRA) and Kanan ISMAYLOV (AZE) picked up the bronze medals.
Chloe DEVICTOR (FRA) may have been on fire throughout the day, overpowering her opponents in the -52kg category but ZHU Yeqing (CHN) had the winning edge, ending the contest in osae komi. Zhu and the team will be happy with this result following her bronze medal win in the Warsaw European Open in February.
With an incredibly supportive delegation, Serdar RAHIMOV (TKM) felt like the arena was all for him as he stepped on the tatami for the -66kg final. He certainly went out all guns blazing, taking a waza ari score in the first 20 seconds with seoi nage. He has only been on the international circuit since last year and the 19 year-old has great potential, so far taking fifth places in the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games as well as the Grand Prix in Portugal. His opponent in the final was Charlie YOUNG (GBR) who was also fighting in his first European Open final, but couldn’t seem to get a handle on Rahimov. A short break was needed for an injury clean up and Young was ready for the come back, he defended and countered an attack to even the score. This was a wonderfully exciting final and Young bided his time, waiting for what he knew would be a weak attack as his opponent tired, and he simply used te waza for his gold medal win.
Seija BALLHAUS (GER) gave a memorable performance in the Warsaw European Open, really digging deep in her -57kg bronze medal contest which ran in to a difficult golden score, but with the support and motivation of coach Erica MIRANDA, a beautiful uchi mata earned her the bronze.
Today, she continued with her bold and ballistic techniques, scoring with ura nage in her preliminary rounds, and the she entered the final against Lou LEMIRE (FRA). It seemed the pair were somewhat motivated by the -66kg final prior as this was a fierce and hard-fought contest. Though both picked up two shidos, it was a waza ari in golden score for Lemire that gave France their first gold of the tournament.
In the bronze medal contests, Kaja KAJZER (SLO) saved herself to take bronze following the semi final loss against Ballhaus and Martha FAWAZ (FRA) climbed through the repechage, and swiped the bronze, defeating Olivia GERTSCH (SUI).
The penultimate final of the day was the most anticipated by the home crowd as there was great potential to see the the Italian flag raised and the anthem sounded out through the arena. Edoardo MELLA (ITA) looked confident and was clearly hungry for this medal. However despite his great need for the home win, a golden score battle ensued against Koen HEG (NED), and a laboured ura nage scored waza ari for the Dutchman.
Bronze medals went to Alessandro MAGNANI (ITA) and Lukas REITER (AUT).
An all-French affair concluded the first day of the European Open in Rome as Gaetane DEBERDT (FRA) and Perrine SAINT ETIENNE (FRA) went head to head for the -63kg gold. Neither of the finalists were seeded, nor are either in the top 100 of the world ranking, yet both came out on top of their opponents today, and though there is only a nine-place different in the rankings, Deberdt seemed to be the clear winner today. Perhaps Saint Etienne was under pressure or feeling the nerves as she was putting in attacks without strong preparation, resulting in an initial counter of ko uchi gari and then another counter, Deberdt simply played a smart game for her gold win today.
Receiving bronze medals in the -63kg category were Lubjana PIOVESANA (AUT), her first for Austria and Nadiah KRACHTEN (NED).
Day two of the European Open in Rome will begin again at 09:00 local time and can be streamed at live.ijf.org.
Author: Thea Cowen