IJF Emanuele Di Feliciantonio / International Judo Federation
This division is likely the most competitive in Europe and Minsk will give us the answer who are the real challengers of Abe and Maruyama at the World Championships. Denis Vieru is the man in the class U66kg given his performances so far this year. He is second seeded as Vazha Margvelashvili has been very consistent, although he haven’t seen him too much lately.
Some guys in the U66kg class have been hiding a bit and the question is how to stay fit and competitive or take a break and join the training camps. We’ve seen Margvelashvili only in Paris this year. It’s a question that cannot be answer in general but more on individual basis. The more older judoka probably temporise their season whilst the rookies continue to show their faces with mixed results. Italian Manuel Lombardo is one of those stallions who can do it. The Junior World Champion plays with his techniques, surprises but is obviously vulnerable but shows us various techniques and pleasure.
Adrian Gomboc the 2018 champion
Slovenian Adrian Gomboc knows what is takes to win major titles. He took gold in Tel Aviv and is eager to continue the status of European Champion. Speaking about technique, Yakub Shamilov of Russia showed us his capabilities for quite a while but if it’s enough for a European title is doubtful. Nijat Shikhalizada won precious medals this season but the new kids on the block give him a hard time. Alberto Gaitero is a typical Spanish fighter. Strong, endurance but not yet consistent enough and these Games are a challenge for him to reach that level. At least he is protected at the draw.
Non seeded players
Among the non-seeded players we wonder how Dzmitry Minkou is doing. He had a tremendous development two-three years ago with stunning results, but has difficulties to perform in this category and tried the U73kg. Will Minsk give his the confidence to perform at his best shape and get him back in the top?
No we won’t forget Kilian Le Blouch in our preview, he is definitely an outsider and managed to win BIG this year. He is the ace for France. Georgii Zantaraia is always among the favourites, it’s up and down, but in 2011 and 2017 it was up. This year Zantaraia medalled in Paris and was seventh in Baku.
Israelians give space to challengers
It’s a bit painful that we miss those strong Israelians in this class, they certainly should have won a medal in Minsk. That gives chances for others and Bogdan Iadov is our dark horse…. Well there is no dark horse anymore. Iadov proved to be among the best. He got back strongly after a long injury and we expect him to touch the last eight, so somebody has to do some cleaning among the seeded players. Last one to mention is Bagrati Niniashvili, not yet at the level of top flight Margvelashvili but a man for the future. Denis Vieru showed us how fast that future can be reached with the speed of light.