Judo showman Jorge Fonseca is hungry for more
If you see the results of the European Open in Prague of Sunday, you don’t see shocking results. Underneath though there are lots of stories. What is World Champion Jorge Fonseca doing at a European Open level tournament. The answer: Enjoy judo, making contests without the pressure without immediately the best opponents. At the age of 30 he wants to have a competition routine without that routine. It is part of the process as a preparation for other tournaments.
Obviously Jorge Fonseca won the European Open in the Czech capital. He threw Daniel Eich in the final after 15 seconds for ippon with his textbook throw o-soto gari with a strong grip on the sleeve. Not that he didn’t have to work, the Portuguese had a great match against Italian Kwadjo Anani in the quarter final. Still Fonseca took gold with four contests won. Also for other opponents it’s great to meet the World Champion on the mat.
Fonseca loves the cheers, loves the crowd and celebrated his gold again with the crowd with all respect of opponent Daniel Eich. Also in his own country he competed for his own fans and for kids. “They have only seen me in short videos on TV or on YouTube and today they had the chance to see me fight live, which is completely different from on TV as there is an element of showmanship. They were able to share that vibe of watching Jorge Fonseca compete, which was great for them and for me. I love children to watch and practise judo, I'd love to make this a project to encourage kids to try judo. I'm one of those people that wants judo to develop on a national level for kids so that we don't just have football. For judo to be a fundamental sport in Portugal. So my goal is for them to enjoy it and let themselves be captivated by judo.”
Despite those noble achievements outside the mat, Fonseca said he has his target clear on the European title in Sofia in April, but the bigger goal is to be fit at the Olympic qualification that will start in July.
Mohab El Nahas has the quality to do this, but usually he didn’t make it to the medal stages. This time in Prague it was different and he won his category U81kg. The Canadian defeated his compatriot Etienne Briand with a long ko-soto gake, it was one of the two and Nahas was a bit taller and grabbed the first World Cup victory in his career. “It felt amazing to win my first title in this weight division! My result last week in Poland was a bit disappointing, but I knew I could do better and I proved it today (Sunday). This win means a lot to me. It’s always a bit strange to compete against a teammate, but I was really determined to win today. I felt strong physically and knew I could beat him. I had the upper hand for most of the match and I followed my game plan to the letter. When I saw an opportunity to get a good hold and throw him, I took it and scored the ippon,” said the 25-year-old El Nahas.
Another fine story is that of Ivaylo Ivanov, and actually of the Bulgarian men’s team that took two gold medals this tournament with the European Championships to start in April in Sofia. Ivanov was no exception this weekend and he won his first World Cup event in his new category. He still competed at the World Championships and Olympic Games last year U81kg, but now took the step to U90kg with first success. Ivanov defeated Peter Zilka of Slovakia in the final. Aram Grigoryan (former Russian) who now competes for United Arab Emirates took bronze. The just escaped from the Russian sanctions. For sure more will come as more and more federations take negative decisions on Russian and Belarussian athletes. Not yet the IJF. Individual Federations though ignore that announcement of the IJF.
The heavyweight title was for Uzbek Utkirbek Turoboyev, a top player who defeated Losseni Kone of Germany. Turoboyev took a medal at the Junior World Championships last year and became World Military World Champion, not a surprise he won the gold in this field.
German women strong again
Lara Cvjetko was an expected athlete in the final for women U70kg. A familiar opponent in Anka Pogacnik, the same final as the European Open in Sarajevo, but with another result, this time Pogacnik of Slovenia celebrated the gold medal. Pogacnik was hunted with two shidos and had to open up the match and immediately surprised Cvjetko with a devastating ko-soto, good for the revenge and the gold medal as oldest winner in Prague.
Germany’s Anna Monta Olek was victorious, also not a surprise, she wins where she competes despite her age of 19. She was the youngest winner of this weekend, just a bit younger as Uzbek teen Turoboyev. Daria Bilodid easily remains the youngest winner ever in Prague (17). She has many other things to worry than records. Olek defeated Chloe Buttigieg of France in the final. You may know her as Chloe Dollin, but changed her name.
There was a second gold medal for Germany on Sunday achieved by heavyweight Renee Lucht. German champion Lucht who won the Grand Slam in Baku last year wants to get some rhythm and made four contests to take the gold in the final against Ivana Maranic of Croatia.
Germany won the medal table with four titles, followed by France and Bulgaria. 23 Nations will return home with a medal. Host Czech Republic was unlucky with two fifth places.