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Hela Ayari on course for Rio with gold in Tunis

16 Jan 2016 18:10

   Marwen Faidi
20160116_Tunis_hela Ayari_TUN

The first Olympic qualification event of the year is held this weekend in Tunis. The second edition of the African Open hosts 274 athletes from 52 nations. France is leading after day 1 with two gold medals. Host nation Tunisia cheered for the gold medal of Hela Ayari who captured the first ever female gold of any international event in Tunis.

Ayari defeated favourite Penelope Bonna, the 2011 European champion in the final U52kg. Although last year Ayari also beat Bonna in the quarter final of this tournament. Hela Ayari is the African Champion U52kg of 2015, 2014 and 2012. Ayari also won multiple African Junior titles and silver at the 2015 All African Games in Brazzaville. Today she showed again her good reputation after she defeated Lucile Duport, today’s bronze medallist and Polish Agata Perenc, the other bronze medallist. No doubt that the Tunisian victory was more than deserved, although she needed the full four minutes, or even more, in each fight.

France was superior today though and captured two gold medals and three silver. The first victory today was for Spain though, Cinta Garcia Mesa was the one who snatched the first gold medal of the season in her category U48kg. She defeated Slovenian Kristina Vrsic in the final and won her first World Cup gold medal. Olfa Saoudi of Tunisia won bronze alongside youngster Romane Yvin on the podium.

Vugar Shirinli won the first gold medal for Azerbaijan this year. Shirinli beat French runner up Cedric Revol U60kg. French Revol who won the European Cup in Belgrade last season. For Shirinli it was the first World Cup victory since 2011 in Baku. 18-Year old Joshua Katz of the famous Katz family was happy with bronze, his first World Cup medal ever. Matjaz Trbovc won bronze for Slovenia, Nuno Saraiva for Portugal.

France secured an all French final U66kg so a guaranteed gold. Silver was for Alexandre Mariac as Kilian Le Blouch prolonged his title of last year in Tunis. Le Blouch won three World Cups last year and seemed to be determined to improve that number in 2016.

The gold U73kg was for 18-year old Slovenian talent Martin Hojak. The 2013 World Junior Championships medallist overcame Javier Ramirez of Spain in the final. Andrea Regis always performs well in Africa, last year he won bronze in Port Louis and silver in Tunis, now he captured bronze for Italy.

Another one who prolonged her title was Nora Gjakova. Nothing’s changed in 2016 as Kosova keeps on winning, who knows what’s the outlook for this year? The category U57kg was again for Gjakova who debuted last year with her first World Cup gold in Tunis. Now she defeated Italian champion Martine Lo Guidice who took a second silver in Africa, last year she lost the final of Casablanca as well. Valentina Giorgis won her last match for bronze as well as Arleta Podolak of Poland who both won bronze U57kg.

The last category for women U63kg was again won by France. Marielle Pruvost took the gold in the final against Croatian veteran Marijana Miskovic. In their first encounter it was French champion Pruvost who won all her four bouts today. The second Yvin here in Tunis, 2 year older Cloe, won bronze for France, so did Isabel Puche for Spain.

France leads clearly and last year in Tunis Les Blues added three gold medals at the second day.


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  • Kilian Le Blouch (FRA) - African Open Tunis (2016, TUN) - © Marwen Faidi
  • Vugar Shirinli (AZE) - African Open Tunis (2016, TUN) - © Marwen Faidi
  • Martin Hojak (SLO), Javier Ramírez (ESP), Andrea Regis (ITA), Nuno Saraiva (POR) - African Open Tunis (2016, TUN) - © Marwen Faidi

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