It is more than 25 years ago since Spain had won two European Junior titles in one day. 1996 was that historic day and on Friday in Prague, it happened again. There’s a new Spanish generation. The main players: Laura Vazquez Fernandez and Ai Tsunoda Roustant.
The biggest surprise was U63kg where number one seed Laura Vazquez Fernandez (ESP) defeated an even bigger surprise, the unseeded Adelina Novitzki (ISR). The Israeli women developing so well last years, so that is not the surprise, but from nowhere she qualified for the final. Vazquez was more obvious but still a Spanish European Champion is a rarity. The last women to take gold was Sara Alvarez in 2008, but in a competitive middleweight… we have to go to 1991 to the other Sara Alvarez, the current sports director of the European Judo Union who fought U61kg.
The Spanish judoka scored waza ari in the last minute and opened the day for Ai Tsunoda who was a calculated winner.
The current junior world champion had an interesting opponent in EYOF silver medallist Elena Dengg of Austria. The Austrians aren’t exactly spoiled by European finals, but when they are in the final, the most common result is unfortunately silver. This century eleven finals, four ended in gold. The last one was Michaela Polleres. We bet the Austrians know the painful facts, but can also be proud of an Austrian finalist. The last ones were Hegyi and Polleres, current celebrated athletes. In fac the most successful weight categories at Junior Europeans for Austria are the U52kg (when Filzmoser fought in that category) and U70kg with Graf, Polleres and now Dengg. And she didn’t give it away and showed a good match against the world champion. She couldn’t prevent a strong seoi nage and dropped underneath the Austrian to claim another title.
Speaking about silver… Luigi Centracchio of Italy was happy not to have taken a silver medal yet… he was EYOF champion in 2019 and took world bronze last year in is own country. A man with a reputation, but there is so much talent in Azerbaijan that they don’t care about reputations. Vusal Galandarzade was the final opponent of Centracchio and had no doubts halfway the match when he forced a huge tani otoshi for ippon and sent Centracchio to the worst place on the podium. Galandarzade had won two silver medals at the European Cups in Nanterre and Prague and had his moment of fame in Prague. He became the 14th European Junior Champion for his country (13 men).
The story wasn’t finished for Azerbaijan…. When there came a 15th European Champion, Eljan Hajiyev battled with another Italian, Bright Maddaloni Nosa (ITA), two powerhouses, but Hajiyev had the best focus and tactics. He waited his moment to strike and hit hard with ippon giving his country two gold medals in one day… just like the Spaniards.
In the complete history of the Junior Europeans the Soviet Union and Russia together were by far the most dominant nation. The Russian federation is not competing this championship which clearly gives more chances for other countries to showcase their best athletes. For a young country like Azerbaijan they are close to the top ten of countries with most European medals (17), where Spain suddenly follows with 16, just as much as Italy and Austria. Of all current nations, France is the outperformer with 87 European titles. Finland had only one European Junior Champion, since yesterday they doubled their score. Anything is possible at day 3.
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