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Bilodid and Zantaraia strikes again with two European gold medals
22 Jun 2019 18:25
The Ukraine lead after the first day of the European Games in Minsk. The Ukraine collected two gold medals at the judo tournament. The first gold was expected for World Champion Daria Bilodid. She was warned for her recent loss in the final in Tbilisi but this time she was able to resist the pressure on her tiny shoulders.
The tall Ukraine defeated Eva Csernoviczki in the first round. The Hungarian had won eleven medals in a row at European Championships but who else then Bilodid stopped her Csernoviczki’s streak. Young and old clashed but Bilodid progressed against Melanie Clement (FRA), the only one who had beaten her this year. Not this time and Bilodid reached the semi final where she could overcome Milica Nikolic of Serbia. Irina Dolgova who was European Champion last year in Tel Aviv was her opponent in the final as the Russian had beaten Catarina Costa in the other semi-final.
The winners of the repechage Julia Figueroa (ESP) and Marusa Stangar (SLO) grabbed the bronze medal and Bilodid this time regained the gold medal against Irina Dolgova. The first gold for the Ukraine was in the pocket.
Georgii Zantaraia added the second gold in this amazing strong class U66kg. Kind of a surprise final despite the experience of the world champion of ten years ago. Zantaraia has a love-hate relation with the Europeans but the magician was three times successful and this time regained his title of 2017, just like Bilodid. In the final Zantaraia defeated Italian surprise Matteo Medves who again took a silver medal, but last year’s silver in Tel Aviv was also a surprise. He hadn’t shown himself this year due to an elbow operation last year but grew into the tournament with victories over Gorjanacz, last year’s European Champion Adrian Gomboc in a revenge match and Nathon Burns. In the semi final Medves progressed against World number one Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia and obviously tried to win the title this year, but Zantaraia knows how to win a final. The 31-year old Zanta has now won six World Championships medals and four European medals and his third title (2011, 2017, 2019). Perhaps we should count him in for his last chance at the 2020 Olympic Games.
The winner Zantaraia said: "I have many medals, but none with the Olympic rings on them. So I am very pleased. I am happy about each medal I get. I am going to retire soon, so the more medals I get the better it is."
"I am not in great shape, I am old already. However, I performed quite well. My opponent in the final (Medves) is very uncomfortable, but I managed to beat him. Against the young Georgian Niniashvili in the semis I wasn’t super strong, but thanks to my experience I was able to win."
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Nils Faßmann (GER)