| The first day of the senior European Championships got
off to a welcome start with a gold medal for the home fans to cheer and a return to the status
quo for two traditional European heavyweights. France and Russia shared the spoils with two
gold medals each from young fighters with big futures ahead of them.
But in the first final of the day, Germany's Katrin Bienroth made a sensational debut by
taking gold in the women's Open category. Four years ago the 21-year-old won a silver medal
in the European under 20 Championships - but her senior debut went perfectly. She battled
past Britain's Simone Callender before breezing past Lucija Polauder of Slovenia in the
semi-finals. And in the final she had too much puff for Russia's Irina Rodina who ran up
three penalties as she struggled to cope with her opponent's size advantage.
Afterwards, Bienroth was delighted and paid tribute to the home support: "Coming here,
I wanted to win a medal. It was great to make the final but I didn't expect to take the
title," she said. "It's a surprise to win the title as a substitute and in the
final I proved I can beat a strong competitor. You support of the crowd affects you and
it helps a lot."
Polauder won a surprise bronze medal for Slovenia with a battling performance to beat France's
Eva Bisseni. But France would yet have its day. Bulgaria got off to a good start with the
other bronze as Tsvetlana Bojilova pinned Calender for Ippon.
That was followed by the big match up of the first day's competition. Double World champion
Alexander Mikhailine of Russia faced his conqueror in last year's European Open weight final,
Dennis van der Geest of the Netherlands. It was the third year in succession the two had
met in a European final with the score standing at one apiece. But Mikhailine's defeat last
year to a superb Uchikomi-sukeshi counter by the big Dutchman loomed large in his memory.
And he was not about to let the same thing happen again.
Van der Geest looked confident and attacked first with a dropping Ippon-seoi-nage. But Mikhailine
was ready for it and dragged his opponent backwards to score Waza-ari. That proved decisive
as Mikhailine took a low-risk approach from then on and fought tactically to stay out of danger
and ease to a second European title. Van der Geest had no answer despite putting in some strong
attacks. But Mikhailine controlled the sleeve grip and van der Geest was forced to attack
off a less effective double-lapel grip.
But Mikhailine was not too happy with his performance throughout the day despite winning
his three previous fights by Ippon. In the first round he was 17 seconds away from defeat
against Poland's Janusz Wojnarowicz when he pulled out the bag a stunning left Uchi-mata
for Ippon. After that he was dominant but it was not enough to satisfy the current World
title-holder. He said: "I did not fight too well today - I could have done better.
I came here to win and I took the gold but overall I am not satisfied with my performance."
The passionate German crowd erupted once again as Andreas Toelzer grabbed his country's
second medal by beating Charisteas Papaioannou of Greece for bronze. Time and again the
two clinch up looking for a big Khabareli or Bodaveli type pick-up to finish the contest.
The crowd held its breath in anticipation waiting for the inevitable crashing shudder -
and sure enough they got their wish. Papaioannou wilted and was turned over for Waza-ari
before Toelzer pinned him down for the Ippon and the medal. Ramaz Chochishvili joined him
on the podium after an Ippon victory against Bulgaria's Ivan Iliev in the other bronze medal
Russia quickly doubled its gold medal tally when Lioubov Brouletova recorded a convincing
victory in the women's under 48kg final against Italy's Guiseppina Macri. The Italian had
knocked her out of last year's event and despite winning silver at the Sydney Olympics in
2000, Brouletova had never managed a medal in her home continental championship. That all
changed very quickly. Ilona Purge of Hungary was despatched with Juji-gatame, Nynke Klopstra
of the Netherlands was pinned for Ippon and Belgium's Ann Simons was thrown flat on her
back with a Kosoto-gari as she stormed into the final.
Her perfect Ippon record did not stop there though as Macri was simply swept away. Macri's
pick-up counters just did not work against Brouletova's Uchi-mata-maki-komi attacks and
twice the diminutive Russian stretched her leg high into the air to flip Macri onto her
back for Waza-ari scores and hence the victory. She was understandably delighted with herself:
"It was a great performance," she said. "I had hoped for a medal here because
I have never medalled at the Europeans before. Therefore this gold medal means a lot to
me and it inspires me to continue to train hard and to win more titles."
Belarus' Tatiana Moskvina overcame an early disappointment against Simons to storm back
through the repechage for bronze. She made short work of Klopstra in the repechage final
with a brilliant Ura-nage for Ippon and then silenced the stadium by dumping Germany's Julia
Matijass flat on her back with a big hip throw. Simons was not to be disappointed either
as she staged a remarkable comeback from Waza-ari down to take bronze ahead of Lyudmila
Lusnikova of Ukraine. In truth, Lusnikova threw it away. She led by Waza-ari with around
a minute to go but gave away three quick penalties to level the scores and was then caught
for Yuko in the last second.
The men's under 60kg final was an intriguing match up between the old and the new - and
many senior citizens may be pleased to learn that experience won the day. Georgia's 1998
European champion Nestor Khergiani, who leads the European rankings this year, came up against
21-year-old Craig Fallon of Great Britain, second in ths year's rankings and unbeaten all
year. Fallon's progress to the final was remarkable. He trailed Armenia's Armen Nazaryan
by Yuko for most of his semi-final but turned the fight on its head in the last second with
a dramatic Tomoe-nage to steal victory. Khergiani's progress had been more straightforward
after a titanic first round battle against his old foe, Cederic Taymans of Belgium. Those
two seem to fight each other every year at either the Europeans, Worlds or Olympics - and
often for a medal.
Khergiani progressed and then eased into the final with victories against Giovanni Carella
of Italy, Vitali Mihailov of Moldova. Fallon made him work hard in the final but he always
looked in control. He twice scored Yuko with leg grabs and added a Koka as well as Fallon's
incredible winning run finally came to an end. Khergiani was very pleased afterwards. He
said: "That was a good fight for me. I went into it with a lot of confidence and I
felt good. My coaches expected the victory tonight. My next goal is the World Championships
in Osaka in the Autumn."
Nazaryan made up for his semi-final defeat with a strong performance against Russia's Eugueni
Stanev. By the end of the regulation five minutes, he had a Waza-ari, three Yuko scores
and a Koka on the board, with Stanev mustering a solitary Koka in reply. Ludwig Paischer
of Austria came back the long way form a first round defeat against Fallon to win the other
bronze medal, throwing Mihailov for Waza-ari with Osoto-otoshi. A mention should also be
made to Spain's Kenji Uematsu to get better soon. He suffered a terrible back injury against
Fallon in the second round but our hopes are with him that he makes a speedy recovery.
After that it was the turn of the French to take over. Annabelle Euranie justified her status
as French under 52kg number one by finally delivering on her immense potential, at the highest
level. A year ago she was a big disappointment in the Europeans after some encouraging results
in the A tournaments - but this year was very different.
She had a tough route to the final and was trailing for most of her first contest against
Natascha van Gurp of the Netherlands before turning it around in the last minute. She battled
really hard to get past Spain's Anna Carrascosa thanks to penalties but then scored a lovely
Ippon with Kouchi-gari against Poland's Barbara Bukowska to make the final. She came up
against an in-form Petra Nareks of Slovenia who had knocked out Britain's reigning champion,
Georgina Singleton. But Euranie's awkward rangy, leggy extreme left style caused her too
many difficulties and the French-woman scored Waza-ari to take the title.
Two of her victims bounced back to win bronze medals. Singleton needed a mammouth eight
minutes to overcome Kristel Taelman of Belgium. A Koka apiece kept the fighters inseparable
for those eight minutes but then Singleton pulled a drop Seoi-nage out of the sky to score
a golden Ippon. Bukowska also made it onto the podium by pinning Iona-Maria Aluas (formerly
Dionea) for Ippon.
The other French winner came as something of a surprise but it was well deserved as he
had to beat an Olympic champion to take the title. Benjamin Darbelet squeezed past Turkey's
Huseyin Ozkan in the quarter-finals before despatching Russia's Magomed Djafarov in the
semi-finals with a powerful and determined pick-up. He struggled for several seconds to
lift the Russian and at times looked like he had lost vital momentum. But he persevered
and eventually dumped Djafarov on his back for the perfect 10.
In the final he needed a golden score period to keep a second Georgian off the winning
rostrum. He and David Margoshvili were locked at Keikoku apiece in the first five minutes
but a golden score Kouchi-gari proved enough to take the title back to France for the first
time since Larbi Benboudaoud last won the under 66kg category in 1999. Georgi Georgiev of
Bulgaria won his country's second bronze medal with a hard fought victory against Djafarov
and Ozkan beat Hungary's reigning champion Miklos Ungvari and then Israel's Ehud Vacz to
win his country's first medal of the championship.
|European Championships 2003
KHERGIANI, Nestor (GEO)
DARBELET, Benjamin (FRA)
BILODID, Gennadiy (UKR)
ASCHWANDEN, Sergei (SUI)
GREKOV, Valentyn (UKR)
ZEEVI, Ariel (ISR)
MIKHAYLIN, Alexandre (RUS)
TMENOV, Tamerlan (RUS)
BROULETOVA, Lioubov (RUS)
EURANIE, Annabelle (FRA)
FERNANDEZ, Isabel (ESP)
ALVAREZ, Sara (ESP)
SRAKA, Rasa (SLO)
MORICO, Lucia (ITA)
BRYANT, Karina (GBR)
BEINROTH, Katrin (GER)