Edition No. 34. Winter, 2003. Today is

European Championships 2003
Dusseldorf, Germany: May 16 - 19, 2003
Day 1

By: Barnaby Chesterman
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 contest.

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.

» Day 2

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DARBELET, Benjamin (FRA)

BILODID, Gennadiy (UKR)


GREKOV, Valentyn (UKR)

ZEEVI, Ariel (ISR)

MIKHAYLIN, Alexandre (RUS)

TMENOV, Tamerlan (RUS)




EURANIE, Annabelle (FRA)





BRYANT, Karina (GBR)


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All photographs copyright © Bob Willingham 2005 unless otherwise stated.

Editor and Photographer: Bob Willingham
Chief Reporters: Barnaby Chesterman and Simon Hicks
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