IJF Fawaz Alenezi / International Judo Federation
In our preview we already foreseen a clash between reigning European Champion Nora Gjakova and Russian Daria Mezhetskaia. She was the one to watch in Minsk and it didn’t surprise she made to to the final but even defeated Gjakova. She wasn’t super high on the ranking list but the one on form with finals in Tel Aviv and Hohhot.
Perhaps the most unorthodox in her throws won the European Games U57kg, a category that s always highly competitive in Europe. But European women haven’t booked international titles since 2009. Not a single European woman was able to take a World or Olympic title. Will Mezhetskaia be the one to face the Brazilian and Japanese rivals in Tokyo?
Today was her day with a good draw and victories against Kowalczyk (POL), Liparteliani (GEO), Verhagen (NED) and Coban (GER) in the semi-final. Still, those aren’t the most competitive in Europe. Receveaux and the Stoll sisters weren’t present and the most experienced fighters were in other pools. However reaching the final wasn’t a surprise. Daria Mezhetskaia overcame Gjakova with a wazari and took her best gold medal ever. That must have been a great pre-birthday gift.
Mezhetskaia: “It means a lot to me. It has been a long road to this medal and it is very important to me to have won it at this moment.
“It is nice to get two medals, both European Games and European championship medals, and I put a lot into that. The whole day was a highlight. The tensest moment was the final, obviously, when I was up against the reigning European champion. Everything went as planned and even better than that.”
What made the difference in your campaign to these championships?
“Six months ago I was out for half a year after I had surgery. I knew I wanted to come back and get the top prizes and I focused on that.”
You also did a lot of analyzing: “This is the foundation of our work. You are seeing your mistakes and you fix them. This means self-improvement.”
Nora Gjakova came for gold as she won European Games bronze in 2015 but was title defender.
The silver medallist said: “I rushed a little. I think I got better in the end, but it was too late. I needed to be more focused from the very beginning. I have competed against her and beat her before without problem. But in the end, I finished on the podium, which is still good.”
How did you experience today’s competition?
Gjakova “In all my other contests, I did very well and I was happy with every fight. In my first fight I had a strong opponent, she is an Olympic medallist in Priscilla Gneto (FRA)) and when I beat her I knew that I would be on the podium.”
What’s your next goal?
Gjakova: “I will get ready for the world championship and probably compete at some Grand Prix events before that.”
Daria Mezhetskaia is the first Russian winner of the European title since Olga Sonina in 2005.
Bronze for Monteiro and Starke
The experienced Telma Monteiro of Portugal won her 13th European medal including five titles. Despite her loss against Gjakova in the semi final she defeated Sanne Verhagen in the battle for bronze. Germany was guaranteed for bronze with a battle between Pauline Starke and Sappho Coban. Even without the Stoll twins the Germans had a success with bronze for Starke who surprised Coban by ippon.