25 April 2024


European Judo Championships Seniors Zagreb 2024


As could be predicted, the strength of the entry in the European Judo Championships 2024 provided great entertainment on day one, with the lightweights demonstrating swift and ballistic judo, with great champions and rising stars both finding their way in to the finals.

Blandine PONT (FRA) was on a roll early in 2023, picking up a string of Grand Slam gold medals, her last medal a bronze in Abu Dhabi. However, we haven’t seen the -48kg athlete in action since the Tokyo Grand Slam, but as it turns out, this hiatus has reignited her desire to win, fighting through her half of the draw, and defeating top seed, Milica NIKOLIC (SRB) with o soto gari to see her in to her first senior European final. 

Blandine PONT (FRA) © Carlos Ferreira

Though Tamar MALCA (ISR) had a great morning, making it through to the semi final of the -48kg category, Kristina DUDINA (AIN) was ready for her, and the contest lasted only 10 seconds. The 19 year-old Dudina took a Junior World bronze medal last year, as well as a Grand Slam bronze in only her second international tournament, certainly one to watch, and today she continued on her rise to stardom. Immediately looking to close the gap, Dunina executed the ippon scoring tani otoshi for her place against Pont for the European title. 


For the -60kg gold, it will be a head to head between the top two seeds. 

Current World Champion and two-time European Champion, Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) is continuing his top form performances, making it to the semi final against Salih YILDIZ (TUR). It wasn’t an easy task, and in the end concluded with shidos, but Garrigos went in to yet another European final, to win back his title. 

Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP) © Carlos Ferreira

Balabay AGHAYEV (AZE), the number two seed in the competition is coming for Garrigos, after a hard fought contest against Cedric REVOL (FRA), though it was use of the head by Revol to avoid the score that resulted in the win being awarded to the Azeri athlete. Garrigos and Aghayev have only one previous head to head, the quarter final of the 2022 European Championships, where Garrigos took the win, can he repeat the championing performance today? 

In the first of the -52kg semi finals, it was a personal battle for Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) who was defeated by her opponent, Ariane TORO SOLER (ESP) in the Tbilisi Grand Slam in a gruelling golden score contest. With flags waving and a strong support in the stands, she was calm and collected, and unfortunately for Toro, it was like hitting a brick wall, unable to move Krasniqi and picking up shidos as a result. An uchi mata – ko uchi gari combination gave Krasniqi a waza ari score, and a third shido was given to Toro for passivity.

Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) © Carlos Ferreira

Meeting Krasniqi in the final is Odette GIUFFFRIDA (ITA). Though PUPP Reka (HUN) gave her all against the Italian Olympic medallist, she was unable to escape the force of Giuffrida, who looked to prepare for her signature seoi nage, but catching and driving the outside leg was enough to send Pupp soaring for an ippon score.

The 2022 Junior European Champion, Muhammed DEMIREL (TUR) defeated the number one seed Yashar NAJAFOV (AZE), establishing his winning streak on the opening day of the European Championships, and for a place in final battled against Elios MANZI (ITA). It was a great match, leading in to golden score before Demirel secured his win and guaranteed a medal with a swift o uchi gari. 

Muhammed DEMIREL (TUR) © Carlos Ferreira

With the top seed out, eyes focussed on the second seed, Olympic silver medallist, Vazha MARGVELASHVILI (GEO). Trying to stop the Georgian from taking a place in the final was Alberto GAITERO MARTIN (ESP), but a ko uchi gari attempt from the Spanish athlete was countered for waza ari, and moments later in the following exchange, a stunning uchi mata gave Margvelashvili his spot in the final. 

Eteri LIPARTELIANI (GEO) has been on a roll since her win in the European Open Championships in Pristina, Kosovo, making history there as well as for Georgian women with the Grand Slam gold in Tbilisi last month. It seemed no different today, but she was challenged by Daria BILODID (UKR) in the semi final. Bilodid is another judoka who we haven’t seen as regularly as before, but an early harai goshi gave the Ukrainian athlete the first score. Though she struggled to manage the remainder of the contest, gathering shidos, she survived the four minutes for a place in the final. This is her first Senior European Championships final in the -57kg category, but succeeded twice already at -48kg. 

Kaja KAJZER (SLO) © Emanuele Di Feliciantonio

On the other side of the draw, Pauline STARKE (GER) scored first against Kaja KAJZER (SLO) with de ashi barai very early in the contest, and was managing well, forcing two shidos on Kajzer. However Kajzer continued to plug away until she levelled the score. It was an unfortunate end though for Starke as during an uchi mata attempt, her head made contact with the tatami first, resulting in an automatic loss. 


Author: Thea Cowen