Queen Nekoda Davis is back on the throne
The French men have showed their capabilities at the first day of the European Open in Riccione. With two gold medals France is the leader of the Medal table. Two good victories resulted in a good start for the French men that saw Reda Seddouki (FRA) on the podium with gold after he defeated Orkhan Safarov (AZE) in the final. They were accompanied on the podium by Orlando Cazorla (FRA) and Eric Takabatake (BRA) in his category U66kg.
France also captured a gold medal in the division U73kg where Luca Otmane (FRA) was able to defeat Salvador Cases Roca (ESP). The Spaniard won his semi final against European U66kg champion Bogdan Iadov who took a fifth place after all as his compatriot Artem Khomula (UKR) signed for bronze alongside Gabriele Sulli (ITA).
In the lightest weight class Salih Yildiz (TUR) grabbed the gold medal. In the final he was able to overcome Rovshan Aliyev (AZE) who was the second (or actually first) Azeri who lost the final today. Another Ukrainian athlete Dilshot Khalmatov took bronze as well as bronze medallist Richard Vergnes (FRA). France claimed five bronze medals today as well as the two titles in Italy. For Yildiz it was the first World Cup victory in his career.
Nekoda is back
Nekoda Smythe-Davis (GBR) tanked a lot of confidence in Italy. She was satisfied after her fifth place last week in Oberwart where she fought U63kg and just wanted to touch base with the tatami again. This time she snatched the gold in a competitive category. In the final Nekoda Smythe-Davis overcame Croatian talent Tihea Topolovec. Former European medallist Pauline Starke (GER) and French Ophelie Vellozzi took a bronze medal. Mother Nekoda is back in the weekend that a new king was installed, she will remember this one. For Davis it was the sixth World Cup victory in her career. Her last victory dated of October 2019 and it was her first European Open victory ever. She did win in Africa and Oceania open’s in the beginning of her career (2014) so that big gap was closed today. She proved to be able to mingle with the real guns in her class again. Is a gap of 8 years unique? Well... Nick Delpopolo closed the same gap last week in Tahiti between his previous World Cup win in 2014 in Port Louis and last week in Tahiti. Still it's a big gap, but there have been bigger in judo history.
Also the lightweight category had a good quality where Spanish Mireia Lapuerta Comas was the most happy with a gold medal. She is in quite a battle with the two strongest Spaniards in her division but this time struck with a motivation medal in Italy. She won her final against Marusa Stangar (SLO), another strong athlete who is on her way back. French talent Blandine Pont (FRA) took a bronze medal as well as Katharina Menz (GER) who got paid out for her efforts in all training camps. Lapuerta Comas'colleague Laura Martinez Abelenda is record holder this year of silver medals at World Cup events in Madrid, Prague and Tbilisi. Lapuerta usually wins her last contest of her events. She consequently takes a lot of medals since 2021 with a victory of her last contest, it's a quality itself.
Well the German women weren’t bad at all here in Riccione with a gold medal for Mascha Ballhaus, her first important victory ever. She even defeated 2021 World medallist Fabienne Kocher (SUI) in the final U52kg. Gabriela Dimitrova (BUL) and Julie Weill Dit Morey (FRA) may not be the most appealing names, but that says it all about their performance today with 22 women at the start. All women’s divisions had more than 20 starters and the category U63kg was for Israel.
Inbal Shemesh (ISR) defeated Annabelle Winzig (GER) in the last final of the day. Another medal for Germany by Vivian Herrmann (GER), that caught 5 medals in total. Cristina Cabaña (ESP) added another colour for Spain. Six winning European nations is a good score with a big variety. On Sunday the British might again strike with a few British favourites.