French strong again at European Open in Riccione
At the second day of the European Open in Riccione in Italy, France again showed resilience and took another two gold medals at the World Cup. In the category U90kg you might have expected Luka Maisuradze (GEO) but it was Loris Tassier (FRA) who claimed the highest stage on the podium. The level of French judo is familiar but the top is quite thin. This must give the French some confidence that there are possibilities, at least at this continental level.
Tassier won his pool with number one Jesper Smink who lost against the Frenchman in his first contest. Tassier won his semi final against Stanislav Gunchenko to take the gold in the final. Li Kochman (ISR) and Stanislav Gunchenko (UKR) signed for bronze afterall.
In the weight class U81kg Frank de Wit made his return after he had lost too early at the European Championships in Sofia, the Grand Slam in Ulaanbaatar and Zagreb Grand Prix. This time De Wit ruled his category where also 2018 World Champion Saeid Mollaei made his appearance again. The two though didn’t have to fight each other. De Wit won his semi final against Jack Gamba (ITA) and Mollaei lost to Nicolas Chilard (FRA) who too the silver in Riccione. Semi finallists Saeid Mollaei (AZE) and Giacomo Gamba (ITA) claimed the bronze medals.
Another big name was U100kg winner Zelym Kotsoiev (AZE). He had won the Grand Slam in Antalya in 2021 as last golden effort and this year he had only taken bronze in Tel Aviv. Kotsoiev triumphed over his compatriot Mammadali Mehdiyev (AZE) who is the world number one ranked U90kg and simply had a great experience in Italy to know where he is standing for the World Championships. Dutchman Simeon Catharina (NED) and Alexandre Iddir (FRA) took a bronze medal, not a shame in this field. All men are world level athletes, so this category was simply strong, not just the final block.
Ukraine heavyweight Iakiv Khammo captured the gold medal in Italy. He defeated Sylvan Lorenzo Agro (FRA) in the final. Two other experienced men claimed the bronze medals: Ushangi Kokauri (AZE) and Budapest finalist Jelle Snippe (NED).
In the women’s division Sara Rodriguez (ESP) won this European Open for the first time since she won in Sofia in 2019. Rodriguez booked her fourth victory at World Cup level. She is a former Cadet and Junior European medallist but this category is highly competitive and this medal will be a good motivation to step up to the next level. Her surprising opponent in the final was Mina Ricken (GER), the former Greek athlete with a German father. She recently took gold at the European Cup in Coimbra and is for sure on form. Alina Lengweiler (SUI) and Kelly Petersen-Pollard (GBR) might have been the expected finallists but Lengweiler lost to Petersen-Pollard in the quarter final and the British lost to Ricken in the semi.
Another big name is former World masters winner Fanny Estelle Posvite (FRA) who claimed the gold medal for women U78kg. But the World Masters is more than 2.5 years ago and it was a relief to win a gold medal for Posvite in Riccione. Although at another level in this competitive “French” class with so many national rivals. 30-year old Posvite didn’t hesitate to snatch the gold for Metka Lobnik (SLO) and became the oldest winner of the weekend.. Lobnik once again took a silver medal after a loss in the final in Oberwart as well. Still Lobnik (21) is on form as well. She won her pool and defeated Giorgia Stangherlin (ITA) in the semi who eventually took a bronze medal at home with Teresa Zenker (GER) on her side for bronze.
The women’s heavyweight was a worth-while final with two great women, great in terms of both being a favourite for the title in Italy. Pan American Champion Beatriz Souza (BRA) defeated Lea Fontaine (FRA), the Antalya Grand Slam winner and youngest medallist in Italy this weekend (20). Sebile Akbulut (TUR) and Helena Vukovic (CRO) were able to secure the bronze medals.