Not very surprising was the victory of the Russian team at its own Junior European Cup this weekend in St. Petersburg. It was the first Junior World Tour event of the year and the event started without the traditional U55kg and U44kg categories.
More surprising were the three gold medals of the Dutch women’s team. The Russian juniors though captured ten gold medals. One title was left for Italy’s Alessia Tedeschi for women U52kg. She was the only foreigner among seven Russian juniors in the top eight!
The European Cup in St. Petersburg set a record low participants list and it’s an unstoppable trend. Not too long ago St. Petersburg was the top tournament in the Tour always with the strongest Japanese junior teams. This time only 14 countries and 242 athletes, so the domination of Russia is not a surprise. Last year it was also the second weakest event in participants behind Cluj (ROU).
The Dutch junior women showcased fine talent with Sacha Buwalda (19) taking gold in the women’s U57kg on Saturday, also surrounded by seven Russian women in the top eight. Youth Olympian Marin Visser took gold in her new category U70kg while she is just 17 years young and has three years to go. Visser stood on the podium with four nationalities, the only category where Russia didn’t win at least two medals. Also tall Dutch woman Kim Hooi secured her first ever European Cup victory. The 18-year old defeated her compatriot Renee van Harselaar in the final U78kg.
U63kg there was gold for Russian Mariia Gryzlova against Natalia Kropska of Poland and the fifth medal for Holland by Esme Nalbat.
The category for women U48kg was fully dominated by Russian girls. Fifteen women at the start, two were foreigners and both foreign athletes lost their first contest, all Russian lightweights formed the top 8. It was typical for this event with a few highlights. St. Petersburg is in the danger zone compared to many other good Junior events.