It was an all out success story for the European teams on the last day of the Antalya Grand Slam 2023, with all five of the gold medals coming back to the continent.
Nöel VAN T END (NED) not only stunned the crowd throughout his preliminaries with ko soto gake wins, but made light work of his final opponent and underdog, 21 year-old Alex CRET (ROU). The ten year age gap between the two, and stacks of experience on the side of the Dutchman truly helped him in the -90kg final, scoring ippon in only 29 seconds with seoi nage.
For Van T End, this is his second grand slam gold in as many months, securing the title in Paris for the first time. His first title was taken in 2019, the same year he became the world champion, this could be a good omen for the -90kg athlete. As for Cret, this is his first opportunity in a medal match at this level and he really made his mark, defeating the likes of Marcus NYMAN (SWE) and Ivaylo IVANOV (BUL) on his road to the final.
Another Paris Grand Slam winner, Audrey TCHEUMEO (FRA) was lined up for a final, this time in the -78kg category. The similarities between Van T End and Tcheumeo continued as both had used notable ashi waza today. This time, a gold medal wasn’t certain for Europe as she came up against the current world champion, HAMADA Shori (JPN) who had been dominating in ne waza today, but she didn’t manage to tie up Tcheumeo on the ground, nor in tachi waza. In fact, she was struggling altogether against the Frenchwoman and accumulated three shidos, ceding the contest.
The -100kg final was highly anticipated, Aaron FARA (AUT) had been throwing with a ground-shaking obi tori gaeshi in each of his contests, while Daniel EICH (SUI) has been demonstrating his fancy footwork. Before the contest, the athletes who are also friendly had joking words with one another before facing each other as rivals. As predicted Fara went straight in for his signature technique but Eich anticipated it and prevented the high hand over the back, however in the next exchange, Eich could not. The Austrian tried again but feeling it wouldn’t work, switched to an uchi mata variation, fondly known as ‘The Khabareli’. Ippon.
After suffering a final defeat in the Tashkent Grand Slam to Varlam LIPARTELIANI (GEO), he was finally able to state he was a grand slam title holder, swiping the gold medal in true style.
In the +78kg final, the crowd were already on their feet because Hilal OZTURK (TUR) had already been on the tatami competing for the bronze medal, defeating her opponent and taking the first medal for Türkiye in this tournament, so the atmosphere for Kayra SAYIT entering the field of play was simply incredible. The double world bronze medallist had to tackle the strong Serbian contender, Milica ZABIC before being able to stand on top of the podium today. Immediately it became an uphill battle for Sayit as Zabic put a score on the board with a drop seoi nage, Sayit couldn’t even the score but she fought tactically, forcing three shidos on the Serbian athlete.
Türkiye had one more chance to get a medal on the last day and an incredible performance from Ibrahim TATAROGLU made it happen. Last year, the 17 year-old took a bronze medal at the Cadet European Championships and now he can lay claim to a grand slam medal of the same colour. He defeated the number one seed, ODKHUU Tsetsentsengel (MGL) and finally Yevheniy BALYEVSKYY (UKR) in his closing contest, giving the crowd another reason to celebrate and certainly a highlight for the tournament.
The Dutch team continued in their gold medal success, having already banked the gold medal with an all-Dutch final between Roy MEYER and Jelle SNIPPE. Given that they train with one another, it was likely this head to head would delve deep in to golden score but Snippe managed a switch, attacking with uchi mata and changing direction with an o uchi gari to take his first grand slam title.
At the end of the long three days of competition, France finished at the top of the medal table with an incredible five gold medals followed by the Netherlands and Brazil.
Author: Thea Cowen