Hyundai Millennium Cup
4th March 2001
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By: Simon Hicks
With the score standing at 6 wins to Asia and 5 wins to Europe Kosei
Inoue steps onto the mat. An ippon from Inoue will mean almost certain
victory for Asia and a place in the final of the Millenium Cup for
his continent. But his opponent is Antal Kovacs of Hungary, the
1992 Olympic champion, and he has beaten Inoue before, two years
ago, here, in the Hungarian Cup. Since then Inoue has won everything:
the World Championships, the Tournoi de Paris and the Olympic Games.
He is an
ippon machine, apparently unbeatable, and Judos greatest star.
"Hajime" The fight starts. The atmosphere is electric.
Europe have clawed themselves back from 4 - 0 down, and now it all
rests on Kovacs, in front of his home crowd. The other semi-final
between Pan-America and Africa & Oceania has already finished
in an 8 - 5 victory to Pan-America, so all the attention is now
focussed on the one mat. With one minute gone Inoue launches his
first big attack, a right Uchi-mata. Kovacs rides the attack and
chases the Japanese fighter on the ground, hunting for Juji-gatame.
"Matte". The next exchange Kovacs attempts his Sumi-gaeshi.
Inoue brushes the attack off with ease. Another right
Uchi-mata from Inoue, followed by a driving O-uchi-gari. Kovacs
tries the Sumi-gaeshi again, and this time he moves Inoue. Kovacs
is growing in confidence. Inoue attempts the drop Seoi-nage but
he has no grip and Kovacs tears after him, throwing the right arm
and launching three Uchi-mata attacks in rapid succession. On the
third he throws his arm across into right Uchi-mata-maki-komi and
the unthinkable happens. Inoue flies. With total control Kovacs
plants him on his back. Ippon! The stadium erupts, Kovacs throws
his arms into the air. The invincible champion has been stunningly
Now Europe has the crowd behind them and the psychological edge.
The stadium has become a boiling cauldron and Tswetlana Bojilova
from Bulgaria grinds out a 5 point victory over Seon-Young Kim to
put Europe ahead, 7 wins to 6, 52 points to 60 points. It is all
down to the last fight. Yeldos Ishangeliev (KAZ) must score Ippon
on Alexandre Mikhaylin (RUS) for Asia to win. He commits himself
to a massive left Maki-komi but Mikhaylin counters with right Ko-soto
and secures a vice like Kami-shiho-gatame. The crowd stamp and clap
as the seconds tick away.
Ishangeliev makes a massive bridge but he cannot shift the Russian.
Amid scenes of jubilation Europe win 6 - 8 and progress to the final.
In the other semi-final the Pan-American team, totally made up of
Cubans, has been run surprisingly close by the combined team from
Africa & Oceania. The score of 8 wins to 5, 72 points to 43
is closer than anyone expected and the Tunisian +100 Kgs fighter
Anis Chedly produces a massive Ippon on Rigobert Trujillo (CUB)
to finish the match.
Over lunch everyone is buzzing about the excitement created by the
Europe v Asia match and the great spirit that has materialised in
the continental teams. This is the first time that men and women
have fought alongside each other in international teams and it is
proving to be a great success.
For the two medal matches the stadium is packed. Asia demolish Africa
& Oceania as expected. The Asian women prove to be the backbone
of the team and win all of their fights. Even the Olympic bronze
medallist Maria Peckli (AUS) cannot stop her opponent, Hyung-Joo
Mim (KOR) and goes down by yuko. However not everything goes to
plan for Asia and there is one major upset in the mens -66
Kgs when Ayed Makrem of Tunisia produces a stunning ippon Te-guruma
on Torii Tomoo (JPN). Without a doubt this is one of the throws
of the tournament and the crowd whistle and cheer their appreciation.
Tom Hill (AUS) also manages
a waza-ari win in the -73 Kgs over Malek Moo Hamed (IRI). His brother
Mathew Hill (AUS) fights a very close contest against Tadoyoshi
Takheshita (JPN), and is drawing the fight well into the last minute,
but is eventually thrown for ippon with a beautifully timed right
drop Seoi-nage. Kosei Inoue returns to the mat, apparently unphased
by his earlier defeat, to take on Sadek Khalgui (TUN) and produces
a stunning right Ko-soto-gari into right Harai-goshi combination
that has the crowd in raptures. The final score is 11 wins to 3,
100 points to 27.
so to the final: Europe vs. Pan-America. The European team is fighting
without most of its stars. Of the Europeans who won the Hungarian
Cup only Heavyweight Alexandre Mikhaylin (RUS) at +100 Kgs remains.
Olympic Champion Mark Huizinga has returned to the Netherlands and
the Spanish women, including Ursula Martin and Isabel Fernandez
have also departed. But the morale in the team following their victory
over Asia is high. Vitali Makarov, the World silver medallist at
-73 Kgs is particularly fired up. It was his win against Asia that
turned the tide
in the previous match and he loves the crowd and the atmosphere.
The Pan-American team is totally Cuban, and though they too are
without their Olympic champions their morale is sky high. They know
they cannot lose. The might of Europe must be able to beat one small
Island. If they do not it will be a major triumph for Cuba.
The teams line up: Pan-America in blue, Europe in white, men and
women united. At the first weight, -48 Kgs, Pan-America expect a
victory. Danieska Carrion (CUB) was the individual winner in the
Hungarian Cup and defeated her opponent Lioubov Brouletova (RUS)
in the semi-final. But Brouletova rises to the occasion, and drives
the Cuban over with an O-uchi leg grab for yuko, extricates the
trapped leg and pins her with Mune-gatame for Ippon. 1 - 0 to Europe.
In the -60 Kgs Franck Chambilly (FRA) faces Leonidos Mena (CUB).
The Cuban is penalised to chui, once for passivity and once for
a false attack. Chambilly gets a shido for
turning over the sleeve end but wins the fight. 2 - 0 to Europe.
Saimur Calderon (CUB) pulls one back for for Pan-America, defeating
Victoria Volotova by virtue of a false attack shido. 2 - 1 to Europe.
At -66 Kgs David Somerville (GBR) faces the World bronze medallist
Yordanis Arencibia. Somerville dominates the early part of this
exciting fight, coming very close with a right Yoko-sutemi-waza,
and Arencibia comes back in the latter half nearly scoring with
his back carry Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi, but the fight ends in a draw.
The score is still 2 - 1 to Europe.
But now Europe take charge with 3 consecutive ippon victories. Mischa
Soukalova (CZE) throws Zurisledis Lupete (CUB) with O-uchi-gari
in the -57 Kgs. Vitali Makarov (RUS), at -73 Kgs, survives a full
standing Kata-guruma attempt by Hector Lombard (CUB) before throwing
him with a superb Yoko-tomoe-nage and then proceeds to whip the
crowd up into a frenzy of excitement. Tatiana Papouchina, a new
emerging star from Russia, gets caught with a leg grab by Anais
Hernandez (CUB), but twists in the air and amazingly applies a devastating
Juji-gatame as she lands to win the -63 Kgs and give Europe a 5
- 1 lead. It is beginning to look like a formality. But the Cuban
spirit is high and they come storming back. Gabriel Arteaga (CUB)
throws Alexandre Konovalov (RUS) for
Waza-ari with Koshi-guruma and forces him up to Keikoku for the
10 point win in the -81 Kgs, Zulueta Regla (CUB) produces a massive
Ura-nage to smash Tatiana Koutpova (RUS) for ippon, and Yosvanne
Despaigne (CUB) throws Khassandi Taov (RUS) for Waza-ari with an
O-uchi-gari leg grab and winds him up to Keikoku to bring the score
to Europe 5, Pan-America 4. When Heidi Rakels (BEL) goes down to
Yurisel Labordes O-uchi-gari for yuko in the -78 Kgs the scores
are level at 5 - 5 with the points 45 - 38 in Europes favour.
It is looking like it could go to the wire and David Somerville
and Yordanis Arencibia might even have to fight a
decider! Just in case, they start to tape up again.
Antal Kovacs (HUN) comes out in front of his home crowd again and
throws Fran Vidal (CUB) with a sweetly timed Sumi-gaeshi to put
Europe back in the lead 6 - 5. Now it is down to the heavyweights
and Estella Rodriguez (CUB), the Atlanta Olympic silver medallist
comes out full of confidence against Tswetlana Bojilova (BUL) in
the +78 Kgs. In the first attack of the fight she launches her massive
left Uchi-mata. But Bojilova is ready for her, and locking on with
Ko-soto-gari drives the massive Cuban onto her back for an Ippon
that reverberates around the stadium. As the referee raises his
arm, the crowd go wild. Overcome with emotion
Bojilova collapses in tears. The applause goes on and on. Europe
have won a famous victory. To complete the match Alexander Mikhaylin
(RUS) drives Rigobert Trujillo (CUB) over into Kami-shiho-gatame
and holds him for the required 25 seconds as the crowd clap and
stamp in unison. Victory is complete, the final score 8 - 5 to Europe,
75 points to 38. The Hyundai Millennium Cup is presented to the
European Judo Union.
The atmosphere created at this event has rarely been matched: men
and women from different nations have cheered and cried for each
other and the audience has been treated to a magnificent series
of contests. This is our sport shown at its best, under theatrical
lighting, on one mat, in an incredibly dramatic programme lasting
only 3 hours and clear proof that Judo can be a truly great spectator
sport. Heidi Rakels, a veteran member of the European team, declares
it the best atmosphere she has ever experienced. The Hungarian Judo
Federation are to be congratulated for hosting such a great tournament
in tremendous style. Most people present feel sure that this will
become a regular item on the IJF calendar and though Europe may
have the Cup the real winner here in Budapest has been Judo.