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Shikhalizada strikes first for the Azerbaijan hosts
8 May 2015 18:05
Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Nijat SHIKHALIZADA (AZE) sent the home crowd into euphoria as he denied reigning Baku Grand Slam winner Colin OATES (GBR) a successful defence of his 2014 title. OATES, 31, was penalised for passivity after 50 seconds and then for not taking a grip which SHIKHALIZADA was also penalised for.
With 43 seconds left and everything still to fight for, SHIKHALIZADA brought the entire arena to their feet with a huge ippon. The explosive Azerbaijan fighter shaped up for an ashi-waza attack and came through with a harai-goshi to win his country’s first gold medal in Baku. Even OATES applauded SHIKHALIZADA after he returned to his feet and raised the arm of the Azerbaijan ace in a great show of respect.
SHIKHALIZADA said: “Today is a very emotional moment for me, to win my country’s first medal of the competition. The atmosphere was amazing and it energised me all day. Colin OATES (GBR) is a very tough fighter and he brought out the best in me. I look forward to facing him again and maybe once more in Baku at the European Games.”
In the first semi-final OATES resisted former European champion Sugoi URIARTE (ESP) to move one step closer to defending his 2014 title. OATES produced a trademark sumi-gaeshi to go ahead with a yuko and was penalised for going out of the area after URIARTE was given a penalty for breaking off the grip of OATES with both hands but there were no further scores. In the second semi-final former Tashkent Grand Prix bronze medallist Andraz JEREB (SLO) was beaten by SHIKHALIZADA who had a swagger all day and was brimming with confidence. The home fighter won by wazari-awasette-ippon.
The first bronze medal was won by European champion Loic KORVAL (FRA) who triumphed against JEREB with two waza-ari scores. After leaving the tatami KORVAL gave his belt away to an Azerbaijan youngster in a classy touch while teammate David LAROSE (FRA) was defeated in the second round. The second bronze medal went to world number 18 URIARTE who stopped the home country and 17-year-old newcomer Hidayat HEYDAROV (AZE) from winning their first medal of the Baku Grand Slam. In his first senior IJF event HEYDAROV acquitted himself superbly and can take a lot of pride from a fifth-place finish which came from a tate-shiho-gatame from URIARTE who had too much experience for the plucky teenager.
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