Europe’s top visually impaired judokas took to the tatami in Odivelas, Portugal, from 27-29 November for the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo Championship 2015. It was the last qualification opportunity for Rio 2016.
Here are five highlights from the event, with more expected to come at next year’s Paralympics.
1. Zakiyev’s sportsmanship
The men’s open classification team event saw an extraordinary moment of sportsmanship from Azerbaijan’s new over 100kg European champion Ilham Zakiyev. With Azerbaijan leading 3-1 with one bout to go, the gold was already decided when Zakiyev stepped up to face Russia’s Abdula Kurmagomedov.
Given that Zakiyev competes in a weight category higher than Kurmagomedov in individual competition, it was set to be a tough bout for the Russian with no chance of affecting the outcome. However, when the two met at the centre of the mat Zakiyev offered not a grip, but an embrace, conceding the match to his opponent. The touching moment was a powerful reminder that the philosophy of judo extends beyond the mat.
2. Cherniak’s clean sweep
Ukraine’s Inna Cherniak entered the European Championship looking to add onto the World Championship and European Games titles she won earlier in the year. The women’s under 57kg judoka flew through the open rounds of the individual competition before beating Azerbaijan’s Sabina Abdullayeva in the final. Cherniak then capped a remarkable season by inspiring the Ukranian women’s team to gold in the open classification team event, where they finished the round robin unbeaten.
3. Winning in style
In a men’s under 100kg repechage match, Turkey’s Ibrahim Bolukbasi progressed to the bronze medal match with a ferocious ippon, the highest score one can have in a judo match. Bolukbasi beat Germany’s Oliver Upmann with a huge ‘ura nage’ throw. One of the most difficult techniques in judo, ura nage sees the opponent thrown backward over the shoulder, landing back-first on the mat.
4. Lightning start to men’s under 73kg
The competitors in the men’s under 73kg competition showed no sign of nerves as they got the second day of the Championship underway. In the opening match, Turkey’s Hidayet Sevinc needed only 16 seconds to beat Sweden’s Jorge Jofre. Incredibly, this achievement was bettered in the very next bout, where Italy’s Simone Cannizzaro secured ippon against Portugal’s Djibrilo Iafa after just 10 seconds.
5. Bogdanova beating the clock
There was drama to the last in the women’s under 57kg quarter-final between Russia’s Elena Bogdanova and Spain’s Monica Herrero Merenciano. The fiercely contested bout looked to be heading for a golden score contest until Bogdanova scored a waza-ari – the second highest score a judoka can have – with just a second left on the clock. Bogdanova then left it late again in the women’s team event, beating Turkey’s Gulhan Kilic with a yuko – a throw that places an opponent on its side – at the very last second.
Day three recap
Day two recap
Day one recap
Complete results from the IBSA European Judo Championship 2015 can be found on the event website.