Azerbaijan’s Ilham Zakiyev claimed his seventh successive European title in the men’s over 100kg on day two (5 August) of the 2017 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) European Judo Championships in Walsall, Great Britain.
The world No.2 beat Russia’s Abdula Kuramagomedov* in golden score in the quarter-final, before an ippon against Turkey’s Onur Tastan sealed his place in what was a repeat of the 2015 final.
Russia’s Gaidar Gaidarov*, who lost to Zakiyev in 2015, was, however, unable to contest the final after picking up an injury in an earlier round, meaning Zakiyev won another continental title.
“The first fight at any Championships is always difficult,” Zakiyev said. “But after my opening fight, I felt good and I am pleased I have not only protected my position as European champion, but all my hard work has been rewarded.”
Big day for Azerbaijan
In Zakiyev, Azerbaijan have one of Europe’s most experienced and successful judokas. But it was one of their next generation of stars who showcased her talent to win Azerbaijan’s second gold medal on Saturday.
Ninteen-year-old Sevda Valiyeva beat Germany’s world No.2 Ramona Brussig in the semi-final of the women’s up to 52kg, before she pinned down Ukraine’s world No.11 Liudmyla Lohatska in the final to win her maiden European title with an ippon finish.
Rovshan Safarov also won gold with an ippon in the men’s up to 90kg after beating France’s Helios Latchoumanaya in the final. In a contest dominated by Safarov, the 2015 silver medallist had already scored three waza-ari’s, before the ippon finish sealed the win.
Azerbaijan’s fourth gold medal of the day was won by Khanim Huseynova in the women’s up to 63kg. Huseynova beat Spain’s highly-experienced judoka Marta Arce Payno in the final to secure another gold medal for her country.
Home success for Skelley
The home crowd had plenty to cheer in the men’s up to 100kg as Great Britain’s world No.3 Chris Skelley threw Russia’s Malik Kurbanov* for an ippon to claim his first European title.
“To stand here and say I am European champion is surreal,” Skelley said, “There’s no better feeling than winning gold in front of your friends, family and your home crowd. All the hours spent on the mat and in the gym have paid off. But the hard work doesn’t stop here as I am not world or Paralympic champion yet.”
Ukraine’s Yuliya Halinska repeated her 2013 success in the women’s up to 48kg, finishing the round robin competition unbeaten. Her most impressive victory was an ippon finish against Germany’s world No.1 and three-time world champion Carmen Brussig in her first bout of the day.
Turkey’s world No.4 Ecem Tasin won the silver medal, with her only defeat coming against the new European champion. Tacim’s compatriot Zeynep Celik won gold in the women’s up to 57kg after beating Russia’s Natalia Ovchinnikova* in a best-of-three contest.
The European Judo Championships concludes on Sunday (6 August) with the team competitions. The final day will be live streamed on British Judo’s website.
*Editor’s note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games. For further information please click here