Azeri judoka impressed on the final day of action at the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) European Championships in Genova, Italy, on Sunday (28 July), winning the first ever European mixed team title.
Khanim Huseynova, Huseyn Rahimli, Dursadaf Karimova, Ilham Zakiyev, Sabina Adullayeva and Bayram Mustafayev were crowned European champions after winning against a combined IBSA team from various countries.
In display of support for the new event, five judoka from four countries joined forces at the start of the day to take on seven other countries.
After dispatching Italy and Georgia for a place in the finals, the IBSA team faced Azerbaijan for gold.
Germany’s Tim Meiss and Daniel Rafael Goral, France’s Prescilla Leze, Greece’s Emmanouela Masourou and Romanian European champion Alex Bologa had high hopes going into the final.
But an upset was not to be. The IBSA team were missing one judoka, handing Azerbaijan a 1-0 score before the competition had got underway.
Meiss then lost to Rahimli in the men’s up to 81kg whilst Leze fell to Karimova in the women’s over 63kg.
That then left Goral to take on multiple European champion Zakiyev in the men’s over 81kg.
Goral put up a spirited display but was at a disadvantage, normally competing in the men’s up to 90kg compared to Zakiyev from the men’s over 100kg.
After Zakiyev eventually threw his opponent for ippon, he held the German’s arm aloft in recognition of a good match. The win secured the title for Azerbaijan with two fights to spare.
Azerbaijan team captain Zakiyev said: “I am so happy. Another gold medal, we are the champions.
“In May we hosted the IBSA Judo Grand Prix in Baku and I had a trauma [injury] and after this for a long time I didn’t have any camp, any training so I am very happy.”
The Russian team of Aminat Magomedova, Ruslan Sabirov, Tatiana Savostyanova, Gaidar Gaidarov, Anastasiia Chudina and Artem Merkulov claimed bronze in their match against Ukraine – but only just.
Ukraine entered a strong team containing three new European champions in a bid to claim a second historic gold in the event. They reached the top of the podium at the International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, on the debut of the mixed team at an IBSA Judo competition.
However at the end of the first three fights Russia’s Magomedova, Sabirov and Savostyanova had all won to carve out a 3-0 lead.
But Ukraine had their best athletes yet to come.
All of their remaining judoka – a trio of European champions in Oleksandr Nazarenko, Inna Cherniak and Davyd Khorava - won their respective fights against Gaidarov, Chudina and Merkulov.
With the scores tied at 3-3 a draw was made to determine who would fight again for the win through Golden Score. The women’s up to 63kg was picked and Ukraine’s Liudmyla Lohatska had to face Magomedova again.
An impressive display from both women saw an evenly matched fight. But it was Magomedova who had the edge, holding her opponent on the tatami for the win.
A draw at the end of the other bronze medal match featuring Turkey and Georgia also meant the winner would be decided by Golden Score.
A second clash between Turkey’s Hidayet Sevinc and Bachuki Shelia was drawn in the men’s up to 81kg.
Shelia emerged the victor, overturning the result from his original bout with Sevinc.
Ina Galustian joined Bachuki on the podium. Giorgi Kaldani and Revaz Chikoidze, the men’s over 100kg individual gold medallist, rounded off the Georgian bronze medal-winning team.
Full results are available at www.ippon.org
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The 2019 IBSA Judo European Championships ran from 26-28 July and featured around 130 athletes from 18 countries.
The next major competitions of 2019 will be the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru from 24-26 August. They will be followed by the 2019 IBSA Judo Asia and Oceania Championships from 6-8 September.