Around 130 judoka from 18 countries have gathered in the Genova, Italy, for the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo European Championships which get underway on Friday (26 July).
Athletes will compete for titles as well as world ranking points towards qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The competition will be broadcast live at IBSA’s YouTube Channel
and IBSA Judo’s Facebook. All three days of action will be covered by expert commentary from Georgian Olympian Esther Stam.
Live results will be available at www.ippon.org
A number of defending champions have made the journey to Genova for the second major judo competition of July. Just a few weeks ago many competed at the 2019 International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA.
Headlining the line-up for hosts Italy is Carolina Costa in the women’s over 70kg.
Costa claimed bronze at the 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships before going on to win gold at the season-opening Grand Prix in May. In Fort Wayne Costa was on the podium once again, this time in third place.
The Italian will make her European Championships debut in Genova but standing in her way is Russia’s defending champion Tatiana Savostyanova. Turkey’s Mesme Tasbag will also be hoping for a good performance as a Paralympic and European medallist.
Elsewhere in the women’s Azerbaijan’s Khanim Huseynova will try to top the podium once again in the up to 63kg as she did two years in Walsall, Great Britain.
Since then however, many new faces have emerged to challenge for gold. These include Ukraine’s Iryna Husieva, a Paralympic silver medallist and winner from Fort Wayne.
Also in the mix will be Sweden’s Nicolina Pernheim, a podium finisher from the USA and last Euros. Russia’s Olga Pozdnysheva and Spain’s Marta Arce Payno also have a good pedigree with medals from major international competitions.
France’s up to 52kg Paralympic champion Sandrine Martinet stars in the women’s up to 48kg.
But Germany’s Carmen Brussig, Ukraine’s Yuliya Halinska and Turkey’s Ecem Tasin, the respective Paralympic silver and bronze medallists, will not give up without a fight.
In the women’s up to 57kg, Turkey’s Zeynep Celik will try to defend her European crown as the new world champion.
In the men’s up to 60kg Romania’s Paralympic bronze medallist Alexandru Bologa will aim to continue his winning run – and double-up on European titles.
Most recently the 23-year-old emerged the victor in Fort Wayne and believes he is in good form:
“Of course I am very happy for this gold medal [in Fort Wayne] for qualifications to Tokyo 2020 and it gives me confidence also for the European Championships for a good result.
“This [gold in Genova] would be the main aim for this year, but just winning a medal would be extraordinary for me.”
Two more medallists from two years ago return to challenge Bologa. Turkey’s Recep Cifti and Germany’s Shugga Sami Ali Nashwan secured third place at Warsaw 2017.
The men’s heavyweights also promise to deliver a mouth-watering competition.
Georgian world champion Zviad Gogotchuri will meet his British nemesis Chris Skelley in the men’s up to 100kg.
At their last meeting in Fort Wayne Gogotchuri grabbed victory but Skelley is the reigning European champion. Since Gogotchuri transferred from the up to 90kg, the pair have met on the international stage repeatedly and a close match-up is always guaranteed.
In the over 100kg, Azerbaijan’s legendary judoka Ilham Zakiyev returns to the mat.
Zakiyev proved he can still make it onto the podium with third place at last year’s worlds and will also try to keep his European title.
However Georgia’s Revaz Chikoidze has recently emerged as a top contender after making his debut at the Grand Prix. With a bronze medal in his pocket, Chikoidze went onto to win gold in Fort Wayne.
An all-star line-up highlights the men’s up to 66kg. Two years ago Ukraine’s Davyd Khorava overcame Azerbaijan’s Bayram Mustafayev for gold. Spain’s Luis Daniel Gavilan Lorenzo and Russia’s Viktor Rudenko claimed bronze. Since then Mustafayev has become the world champion.
All four men return to the tatami in Genova.
The 2019 IBSA Judo European Championships will feature men’s and women’s individual events as well as a new mixed team format, all from 26-28 July.
The mixed team made its debut at an IBSA Judo competition in Fort Wayne, with Ukraine winning gold.
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