Six different winning countries is a perfect outcome of the first day of the Junior European Championships in Sofia. In the Arena 129 judoka fought for the 24 available medals. Interesting is that the number of young men decrease over years but the number of women levels the participants. Their number is increasing year by year.
Of those countries France was the most efficient among women with gold for youngster Faiza Mokdar who bested Annika Würfel of Germany in the final. Mokdar was also European Cadet champion this year. In the category U52kg just 17 young women fought for 4 medals. It was more than 20 years ago since this category had only 17 participants, normally the average is 23 over the last 18 years. Still the quality is good and Nina Esteo Linne won bronze for Spain with Coraline Marcus Tabellion taking the second medal for France in this division.
Belgium though started with gold for Lois Petit. A long expected gold as Petit took two silver medals at previous youth European Championships bot in Cadets as Juniors. This time in a tight match she overcame Croatian Ana Viktorija Puljiz who fought brave and actually took the lead, but 30 seconds for the end it was “petit” Petit who pulled the first gold medal for her country. New haircut, new title. Turkey remains traditionally strong in this category and took bronze by Gamze Sayma. Shafag Hamidova won bronze for Azerbaijan. No medal for Russia that won a medal over the last 3 years in this weight.
However Ekaterin Dolgikh claimed the title for Russian U48kg. As successor of Kuznetsova (2010) and Dolgova (2013) Dolgikh has an outlook on future success. The little Russian defeated Tugce Beder from Turkey, but again a good success for Turkey. A Spanish battle was decided in the quarter final when Laura Martinez defeated Mireia Comas but in the end both won bronze.
Not Azerbaijan but the Ukraine was victorious for men U55kg with Dilshot Khalmatov who defeated Rovshan Aliyev in the final. The young man was happy as he was the winner in a strong pool and he realised. Balabay Aghayev (AZE) and Oguzhan Ozisik (TUR) won bronze.
But there was a fourth medal for Turkey U60kg where Mihrac Akkus took bronze, the fourth medal. The gold was reserved for Tofig Mammadov of Azerbaijan who bested Konstantin Simeonidis (RUS) in the final. Jaba Papinashvili captured bronze. Both the Netherlands as Israel remained without a medal due to two fifth places. Israel lost both bronze battles U66kg. Mammadov became the successor of Karamat Huseynov who won the title last year.
The winner in this division U66kg was Manuel Lombardo. Sometimes he’s brilliant, sometimes it doesn’t work out, but today was a good day for the experienced Italian. He became the first Italian European Champion since 2014 and the first ever U66kg. The Italians collected fifteen titles in the history where you would actually expect more in this age category. Lombardo made that dream come true and after his Cadet European title in 2015 he won the Junior title three years later.
Twelve nations won medals, that’s a dream start for the Bulgarian organization, although no medal yet for the organizer. Maybe further this week. Six new champions for the future can add a title on their list of honour.