While the Spanish and Ukraine enjoyed the most success on the second day of competition
in Dusseldorf, it was one of the newest member countries that made the headlines. Rasa Sraka
won Slovenia's first gold medal at the European Championships with a controlled and professional
performance in a category notable for its shocks.
The first surprise came when Olympic silver-medallist Kate Howey of Britain was knocked
out in the first round by Belarus' European Junior Champion Svetlana Tsimashenka. The Belarussian
threw a Russian arm over Howey's right shoulder, tempting the Brit into an Ura-nage pick-up.
But Tsimashenka latched her leg on the inside of Howey's, forcing her topple over backwards
for a full Ippon score. Then Germany's Heide Wollert knocked out Poland's reigning champion
Adriana Dadci with a golden score Yuko. Dadci attacked with Uchi-mata and Wollert counter
her with the Uchi-mata roll.
When Edith Bosch of the Netherlands was disqualified for throwing while applying an armlock
in the semi-final against Sraka, it became clear that this category would be an underdog's
paradise. Sraka faced Wollert in a tense and close final that was decided by a solitary
penalty, leaving the home crowd deflated - their hopes of a second gold medal dashed. Belgium's
Catherine Jacques benefited from Bosch's elimination to take bronze without fighting. But
Tsimashenka went home empty-handed after narrowly losing out to Austria's Silvia Schlagnitweit.
Austria's women were to have a prosperous day.
Slovenia took the plaudits for its history-making but Ukraine and Spain had the most successful
days. Valentyn Grekov of Ukraine was one of the favourites for the men's under 90kg title
and when Estonia's Dmitri Budolin knocked out Mark Huizinga of the Netherlands, he looked
even more likely to retain the title he won last year IN Maribor, Slovenia. Grekov made no
mistake with Budolin in the semi-final, throwing him for Ippon with Uchi-mata, to set up an
intriguing final against Russia's Khasambi Taov. Grekov drew first blood, scoring Waza-ari
with a big Te-guruma pick-up. But Taov came back at him and forced three penalties to set
up a thrilling golden score finale. Grekov would not be denied, though, and produced a sublime
Uchi-mata to earn his place back on the top rung of the podium - no mean feat for a category
that contained both the current Olympic and World champions.
Those two met in the final of the repechage with Huizinga, the Olympic champion, defeating
France's Frederic Demontfaucon by Waza-ari. He then faced the stubborn Belorussian Siarhei
Kukharenko for bronze. Huizinga racked up four Yuko scores with a variety of techniques
including Uchi-mata, Ouchi-gari and Kouchi-gari, but still he could not put his opponent
to the sword. Kukharenko last to the end of the five-minute contest and remained dangerous
throughout but he could not match Huizinga's class. Budolin seemed to lose inspiration after
his giant-killing feat and was beaten for bronze by a very explosive and dynamic Turk, Ozgur
Yilmaz. Budolin scored Waza-ari to move ahead but was then bounced around the mat like a
basketball with a succession of pick-ups until he succumbed to a winning Kata-guruma for
While Ukrtaine showed strength in the men's events, it was Spain who dominated the women's.
Sara Alvarez upset the seven-time European champion Gela Vandecaveye of Belgium in an astonishing
under 63kg final. Vandecaveye looked confident and moved in front with a typical drop Seoi-nage.
But Alvarez did well to spin off the side of it and concede only Yuko. Vandecaveye hesitated
for a moment and was caught on her back. As quick as a flash and showing great opportunism,
Alvarez responded by pinning the Belgium. Vandecaveye escaped once by trapping the leg after
14 seconds, but Alvarez was not to be denied and after securing a hold for the second time
she saw it through for her first European title after previous silver and bronze medals.
The under 63 kg division is probably the strongest women's division in Europe. To such
an extent that quality fighters such as Russia's Anna Saraeva and Slovenia's Urska Zolnir
lost in their first fights and did not even get a chance in the repechage. Fighting for
one bronze medal was an Olympic medallist against a World Championship medallist - and it
was the five rings that won it. Italy's Ylenia Scapin and Britain's Karen Roberts were evenly
matched until the Italian produced a quick Tai-otoshi to score a decisive Waza-ari. Austria's
Claudia Heill matched her performance from 12 months ago when she defeated the reigning
champion, Lucie Decosse of France, on penalties for the other bronze medal.
The men's under 81kg category was the only other one on the day not to be won by either
a Ukrainian or a Spaniard. Although for much of the day it looked as if Spain's Iberian
neighbour Portugal would be celebrating victory come the national anthems. Nuno Delgado
danced a victory jig after his quarter-final victory against Italy's Roberto Meloni, who
denied him a medal last year, with a typical spinning Hiza-guruma. And the charismatic Portuguese
did a lap of honour after his bruising semi-final defeat of Estonia's Aleksei Budolin. But
it was Switzerland's Sergei Aschwanden who was singing from the right song-book in the final.
Trailing by a penalty he scored Yuko with a stunning fast Tsurikomi-goshi to settle the
battle of two past champions - the class of 2000 triumphing of the class of 1999.
Budolin continued his fine run in the Championships by burying France's Cederic Claverie
with a succession of pick-ups before a second Waza-ari scored with Kata-guruma secured third
place. Germany's Florian Wanner sent the home fans into raptures once again with a gritty
display to beat Belarus' Siarhei Shundzikau by a penalty.
Switzerland could have added another gold medal but Lena Goeldi came up short in the under
57kg final against the experienced Spaniard Isabel Fernandez. She struck early in the final
scoring Waza-ari with a rolling Uchi-mata counter and Goeldi simply could not find a way back
into the contest. Fernadez dragged, scrapped, bustled and shook her way to a fourth European
crown and remains the most awkward fighter in her division.
Sabrina Filzmoser made it a clean sweep of bronze medals on the day for the Austrian women.
She caught Russia's Olga Sonina with a delectable Osoto-gaeshi for Ippon, although the Russian
did rather run onto it and could not have been surprised to find herself staring at the
ceiling at the end of that rush of blood to the head. And another scrapper made it on to
the podium as young Briton Sophie Cox beat the 2000 champion Barbara Harel of France with
a late Yuko. And once again it was that rolling Uchi-mata counter that did the damage as
Harel was punished for a weak and needless late attack when she was leading by Shido.
Spain had the chance to make it a hat-trick of gold medals on the day as Kiyoshi Uematsu
lined up in the men's under 73kg final. But Ukraine's 2001 champion Gennadiy Bilodid denied
him by the narrowest of margins. Uematsu initially struggled to cope with Bilodid's Yoko-guruma
attacks. He was penalised to Chui for passivity and twice flipped onto his side for scores
of Koka and Yuko. But he came back strongly and when he scored a late Yuko with Ouchi-gari
he trailed by just Koka. But he ran out of time and Bilodid was champion again. The delighted
Ukrainian said: "I wanted to recapture the title that I won in 2001. It was a strong
competition at a high level and it wasn't easy for me. Nevertheless, I felt confident going
into the final."
Poland's Krzyzstof Wilkomirski denied Portugal a second medal on the day and won his nations
first of the Championship. He chased Joao Neto from one corner of the mat to the opposite
one before toppling him just off the edge of the mat with Kochiki-taioshi. The movement
had begun fully 10 metres earlier and he was awarded the full Ippon for his extraordinary
effort. Olympic medallist Anatoly Laryukov of Belarus won the other bronze medal with a
comprehensive victory over France's Christophe Massina. Laryukov has a Yuko and Waza-ari
on the board before he pinned the Frenchman for Ippon.
|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)