PARIS, FRANCE May
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Day 3: Sunday, May 20
By: Barnaby Chesterman
Men : -60 kg, -66 kg,
Women : -48 kg, -52 kg, Open
The final day of competition
at the 2001 European Judo Championships took place in front of a disappointing
crowd. The French seem to come out in force for the Tournoi de Paris and the
chance to watch their heroes take on the very best from Japan, Korea and Cuba,
but run-of-the-mill European competition doesn't capture their imagination in
quite the same manner. And that despite four reigning Olympic champions fighting
yesterday and another today in the form of Husein Ozkan, not to mention their
own World champion Larbi Benboudaoud.
Those two were the star attraction in a very competitive under 66kg category
that also included the World junior champion, Renat Mirzaliyev of Ukraine. But
the European Championships is famous for deviating from the script and this
was to be no exception
Women's under 52kg
With the two finalists from
last year on opposite sides of the draw, there was every probability that they
could meet in a repeat of the Wroclaw final. The champion, Laetitia Tignola
of France, began well, armlocking Antonia Cuomo of Italy quickly in her first
fight. But then she came unstuck against Inge Clement of Belgium, thrown for
Ippon with Kochike-taoshi. Clement leapt into the air after a stunning upset
of the favourite in front of her home crowd.
Clement then faced Iona Dinea of Romania in the semi-final. Dinea was spectacular
in reaching the last four, throwing both Joana Ramos of Portugal and Ana Carrasgosa
of Spain for Ippon in the first two rounds. But the Romanian had no answer to
the inspired Clement and lasted just over a minute into the semi-final, before
being thrown for Ippon with Uchi-mata.
On the other side, Georgina Singleton avoided the same fate as befell Tignola
but was pushed hard by her first two opponents. Firstly Carol Johansson of Sweden
took her the full five minutes, and then so too did Viktoria Nagy of Hungary.
In both bouts, though, Singleton accumulated a handful of small scores to progress.
In the semi-final she met Isabell Schmutz of Switzerland beat Kristi Najaryan
of Armenia in the first round before throwing Barbara Krzywda of Poland for
Ippon with a brilliant left Ippon-seoi-nage.
The Briton took an early lead when Schmutz was penalised for passivity. The
two swapped penalties later in the fight and Singleton was all set to hold on
until 15 seconds from the end when Schmutz pulled it out of the bag with a Ko-uchi-gari
The unlikely finalists put up quite a show for the crowd with first Clement
scoring Yuko from a throw and then Schmutz levelling the scores with her own
Yuko. Clement was the favourite having won the title once before in 1997, although
Schmutz was a bronze medallist in 1999 so had some pedigree behind her. The
greater experience told in the end, though, and Clement scored a decisive Waza-ari
with a leg-grab turnover to seal the title.
The repeat of last year's final did happen, only in a bronze medal contest.
Unfortunately, though, the judo wasn't the main talking point. For the record,
Tignola won by scoring Waza-ari with Ko-soto-gari, but it was that moment that
turned the fight into a farce. Tignola scored with the throw and the referee
awarded Ippon. Both judges signalled for Waza-ari so the referee changed his
mind, with both fighters still lying on the ground. Singleton was first to react
and dived on top of Tignola to apply a hold, only for the referee to inexplicably
call matte. The referee then proceeded to lose the plot as he missed a perfectly
good Sangaku-gatame hold for Tignola just 30 seconds later. Having allowed Tignola
time to manoeuvre into the hold, when she did apply it, he called matte. That
was proceeded by a trip to the officials table, seemingly to have the rules
of judo explained to him before continuing.
Unfortunately that was not the only occasion of the day when the referees caused
havoc on the mat. In fact that particular incident was nothing compared to another
in the women's Open, but more of that later. The second bronze medal went to
Dinea who took just 30 seconds to throw Armenia's Kristi Najaryan for Ippon.
However, it was nice to see a woman from Armenia competing for a medal, and
following in the footsteps of the men who have already stamped their mark on
Men's under 66kg
All eyes were on Olympic
champion Hysein Ozkan of Turkey and World champion Larbi Benboudaoud of France,
but just as last year, neither could raise their level to previous heights in
the less prestigious European competition. But considering Europeans have dominated
this category for the last couple of years this can almost be considered a World
Championship in all but name.
Benboudaoud had impressive victories with Juji-jime against Mike Goepfert of
Germany and with O-goshi for ippon against Aleksandre Shlyk of Belrus to spark
hopes of recapture the crown he won in 1998 and 1999. But it was a false dawn
as he lasted barely a minute before being thrown for Ippon by Jozef Krnac of
Slovakia in the Quarter-final.
Krnac's victory spoilt hopes of a semi-final between the junior and senior World
champions, as Renat Mirzaliyev of Ukraine was making impressive progress. He
scored a quick victory against Gueorgui Gueorguiev of Bulgaria, pinning him
for Ippon with Yoko-shiho-gatame. Then he faced Vladimir Oleinic of Moldova
for a place in the semi-finals and soon threw him for Waza-ari with Kata-guruma.
Mirzaliyev also scored Yuko with left Uchi-mata but ultimately won after Oleinic
accumulated Keikoku to hand the fight to the Ukrainian.
The semi-final was then a short-lived affair as the World junior champion demonstrated
his future credentials. The fight lasted just 42 seconds, in which time Mirzaliyev
twice flattened Krnac. First the Slovak went down for Waza-ari, and then again
for Ippon, both times with Kata-guruma. So the Ukrainian marched into his first
senior European final.
Ozkan, meanwhile, was being made to work hard by Chris Christodoulides of Cyprus
in the first round. The plucky Cypriot several times came close to turning Ozkan
over with big Te-guruma pick-ups, but eventually he was thrown for Ippon. European
junior silver-medallist, Joao Pena of Portugal also made the Turk work hard.
But despite lasting the full five minutes, he did so only by stubborn defence.
Ozkan then faced David Margoshvili of Georgia who was enjoying a rare international
appearance in a category that usually contains the entertaining Olympic bronze-medallist,
Georges Vazagashvili. Margoshvili threw Denis Kozlov of Latvia for Ippon with
Morte-gari and then shocked Ozkan by winning through to the semi-finals.
Margoshvili started more positively, scoring Yuko with Te-guruma. Ozkan could
do little more than defend at first and had accumulated keikoku before he registered
a score. When he did it was a Waza-ari with Uki-waza, but that wasn't enough
and the Georgian progressed. Ozkan couldn't pick himself up after that and also
bowed out of the repechage against Kozlov.
Another surprise semi-finalist was Milo Mijalkovic of Yugoslavia, squeezing
past the impressive Armenian, Mesrop Barbaryan, who's fighting certainly lives
up to his name, and then overcame Gabor Neu of Hungary to face Margoshvili.
The Yugoslav couldn't progress any further, though, and succumbed to a Waza-ari,
with Margoshvili proceeding to the final.
Maregoshvili may have harboured hopes of winning his first European title, but
they didn't last very long. Mirzaliyev was on fire and looking every inch a
future senior World or even Olympic champion. The Ukrainian surpassed even his
semi-final demolition job, needing just 23 seconds to throw the Georgian for
Ippon with a spectacular Sode-harai-goshi. It was an unorthodox technique but
nothing less than has come to be expected of this brilliant young prospect.
Benboudaoud recovered enough to win a bronze medal in front of his home crowd
and give his fanatical fans some cheer. His decisive score against Mijalkovic
came via Sumi-gaeshi for Yuko, although the Yugoslav also picked up Chui in
penalties and Benboudaoud never looked like losing this fight. His conqueror
also picked up a bronze, in a fight between the conquerors of the two favourites.
Krnac won the medal, throwing Kozlov for Ippon.
Women's under 48kg
This was yet another tiny
women's category, as often happens in years when Olympics or World championships
are being held. Countries that can only afford to send their fighters to one
major championship tend to opt for the bigger one.
There were just 13 fighters in the draw, although one of those was last year's
European and Olympic silver-medallist, Lioubova Brouletova of Russia. She lasted
just 45 seconds, though, before being pinned for Ippon with Yoko-shiho-gatame
by Frederique Jossinet of France. Jossinet was standing in for regular first
choice, Sara Nichilo-Rosso, although with that result she will have done her
World Championship hopes no damage at all.
Jossinet was in fine form and swept past Anna Zemla-Krajewska of Poland with
a slick Ippon with Tai-otoshi which she switched from to from an original Uchi-mata
attack. Jossinet then had a tough test against Ann Simons of Belgium, another
Olympic medallist from Sydney, but won through to the final by virtue of a koka.
Last year's champion, Laura Moise of Romania, was also in dominant form and
had a good victory against the awkward Spaniard, Vanesa Arenas. Moise scored
Waza-ari compared with Yuko for Arenas and went through to face Tetya Lusnikova
of Ukraine. She was no match for the champion and was quickly bowled over for
Ippon with Te-guruma as Moise advanced to a semi-final against Giuseppina Macri
of Italy. She too was fighting well but made one mistake in the semi-final and
Moise capitalised to pin her for Ippon with Yoko-shiho-gatame.
That put her into the final and a shot at a second straight title. But Jossinet
was in no mood to let down the home fans and she was competitive form the off.
Moise twice came close to scoring with pick-up techniques. But it was in attempting
a classical throw that she ultimately came undone. Moise attacked with Uchi-mata
but the French woman rode it and unbalanced the Romanian, turning her onto her
back as she fell for a skilful Ippon and the European title at her first attempt
after playing third fiddle to Sylvie Meloux and Nichilo-Rosso for so long.
The two beaten semi-finalists bounced back well to take bronze medals in vastly
contrasting bronze fights. Macri needed just 40 seconds to breeze past Zemla-Krajewska,
scoring Ippon through a submission from an armlock. Simons, on the other hand,
needed to fight to the very end of her contest with Arenas to claim her place
on the podium thanks to a solitary Koka from Kouchi-gari.
Men's under 60kg
This category was dominated
by the Asians at last year's Olympics taking five of the top six places. In
fact just one European finished in the top eight, and that was the European
champion Elchin Ismaylov.
Ismaylov overcame Ruslan Mirzaliyev of Ukraine, the brother of the under 66kg
champion, in his first fight by Hansoku-make and then had a huge let off in
the quarter-final. Omer Izhaki of Israel led Ismaylov by two Yuko's to a koka
with just six seconds remaining when he attempted an Uchi-mata attack. Ismaylov
was putting him under intense pressure in a desperate bid to retain his title.
But as Izhaki drove towards the mat he did a head-roll, which earned him an
Ismaylov was forced to do the hard work himself in the semi-final, and that
he did by throwing Siarhei Novikov for Ippon with a left Uchi-matta. Last year
he faced Eric Despezelle of France in the final, and this year it looked ever
likely that he would have to face another.
Cyril Soyer was grasping his first opportunity in a European championships with
both hands. Soyer disposed of Vladimir Degtiarev of Russia with two left-sided
Uchi-matas. The first scored Waza-ari and the second was rewarded with Ippon.
Soyer then scored Ippon with the same throw against Andre Veste of Moldova and
then beat the 1998 champion Nestor Khergiani of Georgia by Ippon with a left
Soyer's semi-final against Cedric Tamans of Belgium was an incredibly close
encounter and the tension was unbearable right up to the final second. Both
fighters picked up two penalties but Soyer edged it with a Yuko and Koka, both
scored with Te-guruma. Even though Taymans didn't manage to put a score on the
board, he still came close on numerous occasions and Soyer only scored his Koka
in the dying moments.
That set up Ismaylov's second successive final against a Frenchman and just
as last year, it was very close. The Azerbaijani picked up a Shido and Soyer
scored Yuko with a Tani-otoshi type take down and led until about half way through
the fight. The crowd voice its noisy support for the Frenchman, but in an amazing
turn of events he was disqualified for head-diving attempting Uchi-mata, just
as Izhaki had done. Despite howls of derision from the crowd, Ismaylov took
the title, incredibly courtesy of three disqualifications out of four fights.
The crowd protested so much that Jean-Luc Rouge, the EJU sports director, took
the microphone to explain why Soyer was disqualified. Such head-rolling is dangerous
for a fighters neck and the rule was introduced for their own protection.
Taymans came back to win a bronze medal in another extraordinary refereeing
display. The Belgian trailed Laurentis Alexanidis of Greece by Waza-ari and
a penalty with just seconds remaining. Taymans caught Alexanidis with a very
late Seoi-nage for Waza-ari but almost immediately the referee called matte.
There were three seconds left on the clock but the time-keepers failed to stop
the clock and the final bell rang. The referee let the fight resume, presumably
to finish off the last three seconds, but this time the time-keepers never started
the clock. Taymans pushed Alexanidis to the floor after several seconds and
the referee, unjustly, gave the Greek a penalty, with now four seconds left
on the clock, a whole second more than there had been almost half a minute earlier.
After yet another discussion with table officials, a golden period began. Of
course Taymans got the score, again a little dubiously, and once again a fighter
was robbed by poor refereeing.
Khergiani won the other bronze medal to add to his collection of European medals
but had to come from behind to overcome Novikov. The Belarussian led by Waza-ari
with Kata-guruma, but Khergiani didn't give up and turned it around. He dragged
Novikov down to the mat and then pinned him for 25 seconds to win his fourth
European medal. In fact three of the medallists were identical to the previous
year, the only difference being a different Frenchman in the silver medal position.
Another small field with
just 12 competitors, but it was encouraging to see a couple of lighter weight
fighters trying their luck. One of those was Karin Kienhuis of the Netherlands,
but she was the victim of more outrageous refereeing. Kienhuis faced Sandra
Koeppen of Germany in the first round. Koeppen led by Waza-ari when attempting
a throw, only to land in an armlock. Kienhuis' arm was injured, and after discussion
with his corner judges, the referee disqualified Koeppen and awarded the fight
Kienhuis left the mat and went to get treatment on her injured arm. Meanwhile
the referee was called to the officials table and, presumably, had the rules
explained to him. Koeppen had not left the mat and there was a long delay as
Kienhuis was brought back out, only to be disqualified and the fight awarded
to Koeppen. Quite what the reasoning behind that was is far from clear, but
what is clear is that the refereeing on this final day was a total shambles.
Koeppen then beat the other lighter fighter, Catarina Rodrigues of Portugal
before facing Karina Bryant of Britain in the semi-final. It was a close encounter,
but Bryant never got going and Koeppen scored Yuko with a Harai-makikomi to
take her place in the final.
In the other half of the draw, Brigitte Olivier looked to be the favourite and
she started well, scoring Waza-ari against former European junior champion,
Anne-Sophie Mondiere of France. The French woman had a Koka to her name but
then drama ensued towards the end of the bout as Olivier picked up three quick
penalties to throw away the fight. Mondiere then beat Susan Somolinos of Spain
before disposing of Clementina Papa of Italy half-way through their semi-final
encounter with a brilliant drop Seoi-nage.
The giant Koeppen was always going to be the favourite in the final having twice
before won bronze medals and having also finished fifth in last year's World
Championships. Mondiere tried to score with her drop Seoi-nage, but it takes
a lot to move Koeppen and one weak attack from the French woman proved fatal.
Koeppen took her backwards for Waza-ari and then applied a crushing hold for
Bryant, who was the reigning over 78kg champion, gained some consolation by
throwing Mara Kovacevic for Ippon with Koshi-guruma to take a bronze medal.
The woman she beat in last year's final, Irina Rodina of Russia, joined her
on the podium by squeezing past Papa by a single penalty.
The final category of the
tournament through up an intriguing first round contest between Jerome Dreyfus
of France, the Tournoi de Paris champion, and Alexandre Mikhailine of Russia,
the 1999 World bronze medallist at under 100kg. Dreyfus can pull out great throws
on his day, but this was not one of them. Mikhailine made short work of the
Frenchman with a spinning left Uchi-mata for Ippon.
Next up for the talented Russian, who has dropped to number two in Russia behind
Tamerlan Tmenov since stepping up to the top weight category, was the three-time
European champion, Selim Tataroglu of Turkey. Mikhailine fought a tactical battle
against his much bigger opponent, who had produced the throw of the day with
a Koshi-guruma on Denis Werner of Germany in the first round. The Russian kept
Tataroglu moving and wound him up to Hansoku-make. The he took on Ragmaz Chochoshvili
of Georgia for a place in the final and overcame him with Yoko-shiho-gatame
In the final he would meet Dennis van der Geest of the Netherlands who made
light work of the weaker side of the draw. Van der Geest twice threw Gabriel
Munteanu of Romania for Waza-ari in the first round and then scored a Yuko to
overcome Karoli Usinskas of Lithuania in the quarter-finals. He was at his very
best in the semi-final against Zolta Csizmadia of Hungary in the semi-final
and quickly scored Ippon with a brilliant Ashi-guruma, reminding fans of his
finest hour in winning the European over 100kg title last year.
But the final was a total mismatch as Mikhailine dominated from the off. He
caught van der Geest with a left Ko-soto-gari for Waza-ari and the big Dutchman
had to wriggle like a hare caught in a trap to escape being pinned as well.
But the end was not postponed for long as the tall Russian imposed himself on
the Dutchman. Van der Geest flopped to his knees and Mikhailine pounced, turning
him onto his back with a hand-wheel for a second Waza-ari and the title.
Csizmadia of Hungary bounced back from his swift semi-final embarrassment to
score a lighting-quick Ippon against Franz Birkfellner of Austria. The fight
lasted less than ten seconds as the Hungarian slammed his opponent into the
mat with a left-sided O-soto-gari. Chochoshvili joined him on the podium with
a brilliant Ippon against Georgi Tonkov of Bulgaria. The Georgian scored Ippon
with a Khabarelli pick-up, although some people may remember that it was Chochoshvili's
father, Shota, who first demonstrated that pick-up technique to the rest of
the world before Khabarelli made it famous.
So at the end of an entertaining
tournament, the Belgians topped the medal table with three gold, a silver and
three bronze. France came second with two gold three silver and five bronze
on home soil, but theirs was an impressive total haul of ten, one of the highest
ever. Ukraine was the surprise package winning two gold medals and certainly
Mirzaliyev is a fighter to watch out for at the World championships in Munich