It’s a busy year for many of the cadets. This weekend the Cadet European Championships take place in Kaunas, Lithuania, followed in July by the European Youth Olympic Festival in Győr and in August the Cadet World Championships in Chile. Lithuania is proud to host its first important European Championship ever.
The first day proved to be a good distribution over many European nations. Seven of the eight available medals were divided between seven different nations. Only Russia won two. In fact, Russia is the leading nation in the history of this European Championships.
The first nation to claim the gold was Azerbaijan. The Azeri have a reputation when it comes to this age category. Vusala Karimova won the 26th gold medal ever for her country taking the victory U40kg against Anastasiia Balaban. However, Azerbaijan wasn’t as lucky in the men’s category, where the boys have won 22 out of the 26 European titles. Today Azerbaijan lost three finals. The first gold among the boys division went to Russia. Georgii Tretiakov won his category U50kg against Csanad Feczko (HUN). There were two bronze medals for Turkey, but they won gold U55kg. Mihrac Akkus won all of his five matches by ippon and was among the most convincing, if not the most impressive athlete of the day. Russian Kazbek Naguchev was considered the favorite at U60kg, but against Vusal Ibrahimov (AZE) could easily have been a tight final. Nevertheless, it wasn’t, and Naguchev made quick work of Ibrahimov, taking him over after just 24 seconds in the match for ippon.
Georgian Mikheili Bakhbakhashvili defeated Azeri Gnyaz Mahmudli U66kg in perhaps the strongest category with 37 young athletes.
Azerbaijan, Croatia, Germany and Hungary won the gold in the girls division. Karimova U40kg, Ana Viktorija Puljiz of Croatia won her category U44kg against Israelian Tamar Malca. After Andrea Bekic, Barbara and Brigita Matic, Croatia has a new champion in this age category. It looks promising for the future. For the first time in 5 years, a new champion for Croatia. At 15 years old, Puljiz was the youngest European champion today.
The final U48kg was for sure exciting with two powerhouses in the final; Mascha Ballhaus and Andrea Stojanovic are perhaps the most appealing athletes in this category this year. For a long time the score was equal, but in the end it was Ballhaus who scored wazari, securing the victory and the gold for Germany. Her sister Seija Ballhaus won bronze U52kg, but the gold went to Szofi Ozbas, the winner in Follonica, Teplice and Ploiesti this year. It was another dream final as her opponent was Israelian Gefen Primo who also had an impressive warm-up towards this championship with gold in Coimbra and good results in the junior category. But the Hungarian won the gold, the 14th champion ever and the tenth woman. Hedvig Karakas (2), Barbara Maros, Szabina Gercsak, and Barna Bor have all been there on the stage and became significant athletes. Who of these athletes will qualify for the Olympic Games in 2024 or perhaps catch a medal? On Saturday eight new champions will be crowned.