Surprises all over in the category for men U66kg at the first day of the European Judo Championships in Prague. The long break in judo is definitely relevant and the obvious winners can be surprised. JudoInside already wrote it in its preview, today anything can happen in the category U66kg. On paper Manuel Lombardo is a major favourite to win his first European title, but the Italian lost to Orkhan Safarov who proved to be in shape in Budapest.
The Azeri defeated the Italian in the first round of the Championship. Safarov came from the U60kg category and first had big issues to get traction in his new category but slowly managed to adjust his skills. The victory could give him a jumpstart to the quarter final, as in his pool also Abdula Abzudzhalilov got an asskick by Sebi Seidl (GER) who defeated the Russian in the second round..
Also another huge surprise Baruch Shmailov from Israel didn’t seemed to be fit enough after his Covid-19 infection. He lost in is first round to the super talented Bogdan Iadov of the Ukraine. Iadov is the second Ukrainian potential medallist in this category alongside Georgii Zantaraia who also survived his first contest but both Ukrainians failed to win their seond battle. Iadov got spanked in his second fight against Dai Perez of Spain who sent Iadov back to the hotel room. Zantaraia struggled with Strahinja Buncic from Serbia and knocked out the multiple European Champion in round two.
A super tasty match between Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia and triple vice world champion Mikhail Puliaev (RUS) ended in a victory for Margvelashvili as expected. Margvelashvili is our first favourite although Denis Vieru look good after his victory against Martin Gaitero (ESP) and the Moldovan fighter should also have a stake in the medals today. However Vieru missed the opportunity to qualify for the final block as Strahinja Buncic is in the shape of his life. Serbian Judo again showed this autumn its development with young athletes coming through at the European podium, not just in this male category. Buncic though lost to Orkhan Safarov, who is eager to win a Europea title in his "new" category as he won three medals U60kg in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Twice he lost the final, perhaps he has the recipy to strike this time.
This article will be continously updated