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Vadzim Shoka (BLR) won his first IJF final as he beat Italian youngster Giovanni Esposito with a late flurry in the last 30 seconds of their U73kg gold medal contest. Both Esposito brothers were good today but it was this time Esposito who reached the podium. World number 47 Shoka made a slow start as Esposito looked composed and set about controlling his opponent with his superior kumi-kata and ashi-waza.
Belarus’ unfancied winner opened the deadlock with 35 seconds left from an o-soto-gari and held on for a brilliant win at the first IJF competition of the season.
In the first semi-final Shoka shaded world number 39 Behruzi Khojazoda (TJK) by a waza-ari which was the only score of the contest as the Belarus judoka grinded out a hard-fought win. In the second semi-final Tbilisi Grand Prix bronze medallist Nils Stump (SUI) slipped to defeat against Esposito by a waza-ari score after 13 seconds of added time. The Italian countered a ura-nage from his Swiss opponent for the smallest score possible which was enough to secure a place in the final.
The first bronze medal was won by Zagreb Grand Prix bronze medallist Tohar Butbul (ISR) over tai-otoshi expert Stump. One-time Grand Prix medallist Stump lost out to the three-time Grand Slam bronze medallist from Israel by a single waza-ari score as the world number 13 sent the crowd into raptures by winning his fourth Grand Prix medal.
The second bronze medal went to former Budapest Grand Prix bronze medallist Artem Khomula (UKR) who narrowly defeated Khojazoda. Ukraine’s world number 25 doubled his IJF medal haul with an uchi-mata for a waza-ari score with 75 seconds left as Khojazoda, who finished seventh at the Asian Games last year, will have to wait to win his first IJF medal.
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