What a story for Belarus at the European Open in Minsk winning three gold medals for the first time since 2006. On Sunday Yahor Varapayeu and Uladzislau Tsiarpitski added another gold medal to the one of Darya Skrypnik on Saturday.
Maryna Slutskaya, Belarus’ number one of the World lost her final to Larisa Ceric by shime-waza. The story of the day was however for youngster Yahor Varapayeu. “Egor” who’s just 20 years suddenly can win gold medals at senior level. Barely out of the junior age, he showed himself for his home crowd winning the final against Li Kochman of Israel. Varapayeu came close to a European senior medal in Warsaw ranked fifth had to wait long today before he could start his way to gold. He won all his five matches against opponents such as Ushangi Margiani, Gabor Ver and Kochman, himself also just 22. The modest judoka told his story on television and now one of the showcases for the success of Belarussian judo. Varapayeu won bronze at the Junior World team Championships in 2015 and bronze at European team level as a part of a successful men’s generation with Dzmitry Minkou, Daniel Mukete, Mikita Svyrid who reached the quarter final after a victory of Joao Fonseca U100kg and Uladzislau Tsiarpitski who won the second gold today for the host nation.
Tsiarpitski had a really sharp battle with Ushangi Kokauri who tried everything he could to persuade the referee that Tsiarpitski had to get his third penalty, but it was the Belarussian who took the glance of gold after winning four contests.
The story of the U100kg category is for Varlam Liparteliani, who first saw his buddy Avtandili Tchrikishvili losing against Kochman U100kg, and then Liparteliani didn’t even had his warm-up for his first fight. But when he had to be there, Lipi was there. He grew into the tournament via victories over Kazachkov, Briceno, Paltchik and Saviytskiy before he caught Michael Korrel in the golden score of the final. Korrel, number two of the world ranking lost before to Liparteliani in Paris this year and they knew each-other from the U90kg category where they had battled in a team event.
The Georgians were in Minsk to test the form and U81kg it was Nugzari Tatalashvili who succeeded to reach the final. But his Russian opponent Denis Kalinin didn’t care about the reputation of Tatalashvili or Kirakozashvili who he defeated in the semi final. Kalinin surprised with gold, although he won silver at the European Open in Lisbon this year and was in the silver European team of Russia in Warsaw, so he isn’t knew.
In the women’s division Szaundra Diedrich had a nightmare transfer to Minsk which took her 18 hours, but despite the remarkable trip, Diedrich had enough quality to overcome bad luck and grow into the tournament. A tough battle with bronze winner Hilde Jager (NED) in the semi final and a victory over Anna Bermholm, who was first seeded, in the final in the last minute.
Gold for the Netherlands as Marhinde Verkerk confirmed she’s still belonging to the world elite U78kg. The world ranking, led by Guusje Steenhuis is not her biggest worry. Her preparation with another training situation far from her usual area in Rotterdam is more of a worry. Tokyo 2020 is yet too far for her, but this gold medal, and the way she achieved was a warm bath for the 2009 World Champion who’s Olympic ambitions were ruined in Rio. A welcome gold medal, was exactly what Verkerk needed with fine and dominant judo.
Al eyes on Maryna Slutskaya, but it was Larisa Ceric of Boznia Herzegovina who won the 11th of their encounters, 6-5 for Ceric now, who was just more clever in her groundwork. Ceric who came to Minsk alone held continuous contact with her coach and president at home. Ceric is always relaxed but today she ready when she needed to be and outsmarted Slutskaya with a devastating choke.
Belarus will have the European Games in 2019 and judo is the top sport for these Games. They have the right generation and good facilities to work towards this huge prestigious project. A weekend like this will just generate more positive publicity for judo in Belarus.
This weekend judo doesn’t stop with the training camp in Stayki… one for the die hards.