JudoInside – News – German judo names dominate on day one in Prague
France and Germany were the two most impressive nations on day one of the European Open Prague, CZE. The French took two victories in the men’s lowest weight category and Germany were strong in the women’s U52kg and U57kg.
Richard Vergnes won the gold medal in the U60kg lightweight category. The Frenchman beat his compatriot Maxime Merlin in the final. It was his third World Cup gold medal. His previous win was booked in 2018 in Lima at the Pan American Open. However, Vergnes showed his form at the Belgian Open in Vise in January where he also won a gold medal.
Frenchman Reda Seddouki, 23, won his first World Cup victory. In Prague, he was too strong in the final for the Italian Elios Manzi. Last week in Warsaw, he missed the medals by finishing fifth in Poland. He was best in one field out of 58 men. The last time we noticed a field of 58 athletes was at the World Championships last year, which highlights the big fight in Prague. A total of 525 athletes are gathered from 42 countries. Obviously without the Russian, Belarusian or Ukrainian athletes. The 2019 French champion had to win six competitions in Prague to get on the highest podium. For Manzi, it was definitely a silver medal with golden edges after a bad three-year spell with lots of injuries. He was happy to celebrate a sweet silver medal.
Victory in the men’s U73kg was for Mark Hristov of Bulgaria, 22, who was today’s youngest winner. It was a good preparation for the European Championships which will take place in Sofia (BUL) in April. Hristov marked himself as a medal contender with Saturday’s performance. Even though the quality of the pitch in Sofia will be much higher. In today’s final, he beat Italy’s Luigi Centracchio, bronze medalist from last year’s World Junior Championships. Hristov already won a bronze medal at Grand Prix level in Zagreb last year and finished ninth at the World Championships, he’s definitely an underdog for a home surprise in April.
Spanish U48kg champion Mireia Lapuerta Comas took first place in Prague in her weight class. Last week she finished third in Warsaw, which was probably just the start of her best year to come. Although she failed to make the last eight in her previous Grand Slam and Grand Prix competitions, this is the level she can easily handle. It will take a bit more confidence to take it to the next level. In the final, Lapuerta defeated one of her Spanish rivals Laura Martinez Abelenda. In the golden score of the final, Lapuerta took over an attack from Martinez and destroyed it with a huge ura nage.
Germany’s strong Annika Wuerfel once again showed her skills at the European Open level, she won the under 52kg gold medal she needed to progress in today’s tournament, this what she hadn’t expected from the start. In the final, she beat the talented Swiss Binta Ndiaye who was the youngest medalist of the day at 17 years old. The oldest medalist was in fact her compatriot Evelyne Tschopp (30) a category higher. German champion Wuerfel has a similar history to Lapuerta Comas, failing the IJF World Tour for the last eight, but that gold medal should be good enough to power her through to the last eight. at the next World Tour event, whenever applicable. The Tbilisi Grand Slam has been postponed, the Grand Slam of his own country, in Düsseldorf, has been canceled. Wuerfel tried her luck in Prague and after Binta was penalized for the third time, it was the German who won her last of five contests.
The Germans were also strong at under 57kg where Pauline Starke had a tough semi-final against Amelie Stoll, but Starke won that battle and advanced to the final against Kitti Kovacs, who beat Jaione Equisoain of Spain . Both 24, Starke hasn’t given Kovacs much time. After twenty seconds the Hungarian was in trouble on the floor and Starke was working on her ne-waza with oseikomi and Kovacs was tapping fast who only needed 45 seconds to claim gold in the final. After the gold in Warsaw, she proves that this level is for her only finger training. Last year, she won bronze at the Baku Grand Slam and she has already won a European bronze medal, which makes her a sure medal contender at the Europeans in Sofia. For the former Hungarian champion, this medal was her best performance at the international level. Stoll and Tschopp finished with bronze.
Indeed, former German international, having competed for years for Australia, Katharina Haecker won the U63kg category. Haecker, who also competed in the Olympics, beat France’s Agathe Devitry in the final. Haecker also won the Tel Aviv Grand Slam two years ago and is a multiple Oceania champion. For Haecker, Prague was good training to get back in shape for the most important events such as the Asia-Oceania Championships and IJF World Tour events. Haecker won the final in the final medal when she scored a wazari and turned into an oseikomi. Devitry lost her last contest, just like in Sarajevo in February where she finished with silver, she is still in great shape. She won the Belgian Open in January, even in U70kg and is gradually becoming an asset for France in a category where Agbegnenou is on maternity leave.