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World number one Zantaraia has to deal with the expectations in Baku
25 Jun 2015 10:30
Number one of the World Georgii Zantaraia is happy with his current shape. Although he will face severe competition at the World Championships, here in Baku he will be the major favourite for the gold medal.
Last year Zantaraia (1) finished fifth at the European Championships. The Ukrainian judoka hasn't been very lucky at European Championships. In his career U60kg he won the title in 2011 in Istanbul and finished second in 2009 in Tbilis. Last three years he didn't take a medal, while in 2013 and 2014 he was in the transition to his new category U66 where he finally took the highest rank again. With two fancy victories at the Grand Prix in Zagreb and IJF Masters in Rabat, there's no doubt who is the best man in this category. No guarantee for gold though as Baku will give the players around with Mikhail Pulyaev (2) as toughest competitor. He defeated Zantaraia last year in Montpellier for bronze.
The European title went to Loic Korval in an all French final. This year a lot has changed, Korval had some personal problems and is seeded as #6 and Larose isn't even ranked and can face anyone in the field. Not that they don't have the quality as they focus at the World Championships in their fight for Olympic qualification.
Dzmitry Shershan (3) is an outsider for a medal. The little man from Belarus is in shape but needsa good day to beat the best. Further outsiders are Colin Oates (4), Nijat Shikhalizada (5) fighting for his own crowd with high expectations and Sebastian Seidl (7), another German who reached three finals in a row but lost all three of them. Maybe he can be the surprise winner this time taking his revenge on Zantaraia. Russian Kamal Khan-Magomedov can fight at world level and even take this European Games title. He suffers quite some competition in his country but proved to be good in Chelyabinsk and might face Zantaraia in Baku.
An interesting category, as always with top fighters and statistically the World's best judoka Zantaraia; stylish and spectacular.
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