26 February 2023


Warsaw European Open 2023


Bigger the athlete, bigger the throw? Well there have been some enormous techniques spanning the three tatami on the second and final day of the European Open in Warsaw. With some of Poland’s finest competing, the stands were packed with families and friends, team mates and a variety of clubs, not to mention a host of Chinese supporters for their women this weekend!

Victor STERPU (MDA) who we are used to seeing in the -73kg category surprised in the -81kg today and clearly surprised his opponents as he moved seamlessly to the semi final against Aurelien BONFERRONI (SUI). Sadly for Bonferroni, it didn’t last long, an o uchi – ko soto gari combination 44 seconds in to the contest gave Sterpu the win. 

Victor STERPU (MDA) © Carlos Ferreira

On the other side of the draw, the Swiss continues to show up, Lukas WITTWER was tested against the home favourite and 2020 gold medallist, Damien STEPIEN (POL). The crowd were willing on their athlete who was looking more positive in the bout, with Wittwer picking up two shidos. A third issued to the Swiss meant that Stepien would compete for the gold once again. 

For the home team, Eliza WROBLEWSKA (POL) earned her place in the semi final against FENG Yingying (CHN). The Polish contender is noticeably taller than most of her opponents but Feng rivalled this which meant she had to change her high hand tactics slightly. It was a brutal contest, from both parties but once again, home support charged their athlete, Wroblewska scored twice with ashi waza to have her chance at the gold. 

The Swiss team had a number of strong competitors on day two, including Gioia VETTERLI who took on two-time Warsaw European Open medallist, Jorien VISSER (NED) for a place in the final. Thankfully for Vetterli, she was able to ensure a medal went home to Switzerland by getting a submission by armlock from Visser. 

For the first minute of the -90kg semi final between Aleksandr CHERKAI (UKR) and Dorin GOTONOAGA (MDA) it was a kumi kata battle, then the attacks began flooding in but to no avail for either in the initial contest time.  The left versus right proved an issue and dragged them in to golden score, and a desperate attack from Cherkai resulted in a head dive and consequently disqualification. Ukraine were given a second chance by Ivan KUTENKOV (UKR), but it didn’t work out for the team after Max LABORDE (FRA) finished the contest with ko soto gari. 

The -78kg favourite and last years gold medallist Anna Monta OLEK (GER) was caught off guard by Lieke DERKS (NED) very early on in the contest which gave her plenty of time to chase but the pressure was on. She didn’t want to let the clock run down too much and executed an ippon scoring uchi mata, a second gold could be on the cards. To take it she will need to beat Julie HOELTERHOFF (GER) in the final. Though WU Hongtao (CHN) gave her a good fight, a sumi gaeshi and ko soto gari gave the German the win. 

Anna Monta OLEK (GER) © Carlos Ferreira

Arguably one of the more intense semi finals, the -100kg bout between Zlatko KUMRIC (CRO) and Laurin BOEHLER (AUT). After a number of surgeries and health battles, Boehler returned to the IJF World and the European Tour and today he was looking for like his former, grand slam-medalling self. Unfortunately for the Austrian, Kumric was dominating in kumi kata and as a result, scored with harai goshi which eventually won the contest. Next it was an all-German battle between Daniel HERBST (GER) and George UDSILAURI (GER). Junior Udislauri picked up two shidos early on which meant he was on the offence going in to golden score. He persevered and took the win in ne waza. 

Zlatko KUMRIC (CRO) © Carlos Ferreira

What many may have assumed to be an easy run for Beatriz SOUZA (BRA), became a nightmare at the hands of Kinga WOLSZAK (POL). The home nation athlete came close to a score with ashi waza and put Souza in action, nevertheless, both picked up two shidos. In golden score, a throw from the top seed Souza was enough to take her to the final. XU Shiyan (CHN) and SU Xin (CHN) went head to head for the place in the final, the pair are #10 and #18 in the world ranking list respectively but in the end the higher rank prevailed. 

An early score from Karl PRIILINN TURK (EST) shocked Marius FIZEL (SVK) in to action in the first of the +100kg semi finals. The Estonian managed to put up a strong defence up until the last thirty seconds and was caught by Fizel, evening the score and resetting the contest. A weak drop seoi nage from Priilinn Turk was countered with te waza in the end, giving Fizel the win. It will be Mircea CROITORU (ROU) going against him in todays final, as he defeated Mohammed LAHBOUB (MAR) in style with a huge okuri ashi barai. 

The final block starts almost immediately at 15:00 local time on live.ijf.org


Author: Thea Cowen