On Friday the Cadet European Championships will take place in Kaunas in Lithuania. It’s the first ever Judo European Championships in Lithuania. The Zalgirio Arena, normally used as basketball arena, will see many families and athletes pack the venue.
The Lithuanian cadet team consists of 18 athletes with heavyweight Justina Kmieliauskaite who’s ranked highest in the IJF World Ranking. However the last time that the host nation won a medal at European Cadet Championships or EYOF was in 2013 when Rokas Nenartavicius took silver in Tallinn at European Cadet level. Renalda Gedutyte became European Champion in 2009 and Alius Braciulis EYOF champion in 2003.
Lithuania is not very spoiled in judo. The Baltic states have a well developed Sambo team and some of the judoka stream into Sambo. At the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Santa Pakenyte competed in the heavyweights and finished ninth. Marius Paskevicius and Karolis Bauza are some of the most familiar judoka in the circuit.
In total more than 400 young athletes registered and the draw will be on Thursday. Last year the Russian cadets won four gold medals. France, Azerbaijan, Serbia and the Ukraine took two titles.
Some former European Cadet Champions took medals at the Olympic Games in Rio, such as Odette Giuffrida (ITA), who was in the final seven years after her first European cadet title. Who will be the next future Olympic medallist in 2024? You can follow it this week from Kaunas.