It was a tough opening day in the Junior World Championships here in Odivelas, Portugal. Many of the top seeds saw shocking early exits, but this is the world stage and we expect nothing less. Europe have ended the preliminary block with an athlete in each final from Türkiye, Azerbaijan, Italy and Israel, all against Japanese opponents.
The -48kg category was led by the 2022 world bronze medallist and double Junior European Champion, Merve AZAK (TUR), who was put out in her quarter by Kristina DUDINA (AIN) with some technical ne waza. It was a devastating blow for the individual and also the team, however morale hadn’t been completely diminished as her team mate and 2022 Junior European final opponent, Sila ERSIN was quietly battling her way through.
Ersin’s semi final win against Asia AVANZATO (ITA) was an emotional one, guaranteeing her place on the podium, but there is still one last challenge; MIYAKI Kano (JPN) for the gold. Miyaki took the Cadet World Championship gold last year in Sarajevo as well as the impressive title in the Tokyo Grand Slam.
It was a surprising result that quarter leaders, Tara BABULFATH (SWE) and Pauline CUQ (FRA) were unable see it through to the final block, however this goes to show just how high the level of judo was in the lightest of the women’s weight categories.
Marcus AUER (AUT) saw a similar fate, the top seed losing out in his first round of the -60kg category, but nevertheless, the number two seed and current Junior European Champion, Nizami IMRANOV (AZE) powered on in to the semi final against the unseeded Kako CHAPURISHVILI (GEO). This was a sensational match up, keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats and eventually the Georgian suffered a defeat, at the losing end of a huge ‘Khabareli’ from Imranov. The Azeri athlete, the only top four athlete to make it out of his quarter, will take on this years Portugal Grand Prix winner, FUKUDA Yamato (JPN) in the final.
One of the two defending world champions in this year’s championships is Giulia CARNA (ITA) in the -52kg category, and proved her ranking and seeding by going right the way through to the final. Both her technical ability and attitude was impeccable, in tachi waza and ne waza. It could also be argued that the current world and European champion has been exposed to the senior circuit which gives her an edge, then again, it wasn’t the case for other world tour participants, Binta NDIAYE (SUI) for example, saw an early exit at the hands of number two seed and Pan American Junior champion, Evelyn BEATON (CAN).
Carna finally defeated French opponent Lea BERES in the semi final, continuing on her mission for the consecutive world gold medal, and will compete against KAMIYA Rin (JPN).
Current -66kg Junior European Champion, Tengo ZIRAKASHVILI (GEO) had gave an astounding performance, defeating Ibrahim DEMIREL (TUR) to take a place in the semi final against another FUKUDA Yamato of Japan, but of course in the -66kg category. He gave it his all, and the pair went in to golden score, however Fukuda eventually managed to secure the osae komi for the win to go in to the final, Zirakashvili having to settle for the opportunity for bronze.
On the other half of the draw, Viljar LIPARD (EST) was the surprise of the category, defeating junior European silver medallist Aydin RZAYEV (AZE) and HIDANO Keita (JPN) to go against number three seed, Eran FIKS (ISR) in the semi final. The pair initiated an aggressive contest, and picked up two shidos each, but with only 35 seconds Fiks executed a swift drop seoi nage to seal his final fate. It was a disappointing Junior European Championships in The Hague for Fiks, finishing in 5th place, however he is guaranteed a medal today, but will it be gold or silver?
The final block will take place at 16:00 local time, all fights live on JudoTV.com.
Author: Thea Cowen