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Strong Korean women at European Open in Sofia
28 Jan 2016 10:05
The first week of February is traditionally the period for the European Open in Sofia. But Sofia starts early this year, this weekend at 30 and 31 January Sofia is the centre of the Olympic qualification in judo where both men and women will fight in the Bulgarian capital. Last year when the Tournoi de Paris wasn’t held Sofia shifted a week. Last year the host nation enjoyed the victory of Ivelina Ilieva U57kg and there was bronze U60kg for Yanislav Gerchev and U81kg by Ivaylo Ivanov. This year Ivanov is ranked second in the seeding for Sofia behind Yakhyo Imamov, the 2013 Paris Grand Slam winner is taking the first seed.
The Bulgarian team is getting stronger but the competition this year will be tough. In 2015 the Japanese women’s team took four gold medals by Mako Uchio, Megumi Tsugane, Chizuru Arai and Rika Takayama, not the least fighters. Also an appealing name as Olympic champion Jae-Bum Kim won his category. Kim Jae-Bum was tenth ever winner of the in Sofia in the history since Sofia became an A-tournament / World Cup in 1989.
Dutch talent Michael Korrel seemed to develop well in 2015 starting in Sofia with gold U100kg. Silver was was this year's number one seed U100kg this Ramadan Darwish of Egypt.
In the women’s division Romanian will have a strong team with Monica Ungureanu starting U48kg, but she will have competition of Bo Kyeong Jeong of Korea. Kim Jan Di is separated from Loredana Ohai U57kg and Korean Bak JiYun will have strong chances for gold U63kg. Four Korean women are first seeded in Sofia with Kim Seong Yeon U70kg and Kim Min-Jeong +78kg. Last week’s bronze medallist in Havana U78kg Assunta Galeone is Italy is the highest seed U78kg.
Last year’s record of 51 nations will likely broken giving Sofia a strong start of 2016.
One of the top athletes in that history for Bulgaria was Georgi Georgiev. He won the event three times. On Saturday it’s Georgiev’s birthday and the Olympic medallist of 2004 will be happy to see a strong field.
The women dominate the records though and in particular Lucija Polavder (SLO) who won the tournament four times. The Slovenian team will again be strong with 12 men and 7 women.
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Thijmen Hermans (NED)