Judo

Giuffrida and Safarov shine on Day 1 of 2020 European Championships

All the action from Day 1 of the 2020 European judo champs, with shockwaves rippling out from the mat in Prague

By Ken Browne ·

Safarov stuns in men's -66kg

In the absence of reigning Olympic champion Fabio Basile anything was possible in a stacked field in the 66g category, and it was a contest popping with surprises.

Basile's fellow Italian Manuel Lombardo was the favourite on paper but he crashed out in the first round to Orkhan Safarov from Azerbaijan.

Lombardo hasn't had an official fight for more than a year, including missing out at Budapest because Basile and three other Italians tested positive for coronavirus.

Safarov, meanwhile, made it all the way to the final where he faced another surprise finalist in Israel's Tal Flicker, they shared an early score each before Safarov finished it with an ippon inside regulation time.

Joy for the Azeri judoka who finally made it gold at the fourth attempt, finishing second in each of his previous three European finals.

France's Killian Le Blouch and Moldova's Denis Vieru took the bronze medals.

Basile, Lombardo and the entire Italian team will be hoping for more in the run up to Tokyo 2020.

Giuffrida triumphs in Women's -52kg

With reigning Olympic champ Majlinda Kelmendi and current World No.1 Amandine Buchard absent in Prague it was a chance for someone else to shine.

And it was Italy's Odette Giuffrida from Italy who stepped up.

The Rio 2016 silver medallist faced surprise finalist Andreea Chitu who knocked out Rio bronze medallist and four-time European Champion Natalia Kuziutina in the quarter final.

Romanian Chitu and Giuffrida had fought each other 13 times always before this final, the Italian edging it 6-7 overall, and the Giuffrida stretched that lead to 6-8 to win her first European title by a single score.

London 2012 bronze medallist Charline Van Snick fought a gruelling nine-minute plus encounter with Spain's Ana Perez-Box, Van Snick eventually outlasting her opponent to take bronze.

And Spain's Estrella Lopez Sheriff made it a day to forget for Russian Natalia Kuziutina by beating her to bronze with ippon in golden score in the other bronze medal final.

The last time a Spanish women U52kg captured a medal was in 2013 by Laura Gomez, and Lopez Sheriff celebrated with her team in style.

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Boukli bags first Euro title in women's -48kg

21-year-old French fighter Shirine Boukli from France had the best moment of her career so far winning a first European title from Serbia's Andrea Stojadinov.

The big surprise here was that Kosovan Distria Krasniqi didn't even make the final, taking home bronze instead. Krasniqi looked unstoppable as current World Masters champion and winner at the Budapest Grand Slam last month.

But Prague is giving us a glimpse at some of the gun guns who could become Olympic break-out stars at Tokyo next summer.

Boukli is definitely in that category, she's won the Düsseldorf Grand Slam and has been knocking on the door all year, here she really made a statement in the Czech Republic beating world bronze medallist and favourite Distria Krasniqi from Kosovo in the quarter-finals, before seeing off fellow 21-year-old Laura Martínez Abelenda of Spain in the semis and Serbian 20-year-old Andrea Stojadinov in the final.

This was supposed to be Krasniqi's moment with Ukraine star Daria Bilodid absent, but it was Boukli who seized the spotlight.

Katharina Menz stood on the third-place platform with Krasniqi.

Mshvidobadze the man at -60kg

It was an all-Russian final between number one seed Robert Mshvidobadze and Budapest Grand Slam gold medal winner Yago Abuladze brought another world-class contest between these two.

Mshvidobadze took an early score from a throw, Abuladze evening things up almost immediately for a waza-ari each. Both judoka walked a razor edge with such great positioning and awareness that it was impossible to call.

But right when it looked like nothing would separate them, just four seconds on the clock, to go Mshvidobadze came up with a superb throw with enough side-on to claim victory by ippon.

Number 2 seed Francisco Garrigos from Spain and Belgian Jorre Verstraeten took bronze.

Karakas pips women's -57kg

Hungarian Hedvig Karakas overcame Telma Monteiro, another Rio 206 bronze medallist, in the 57kg final.

It was a contrast of styles with Monteiro the more attacking of the two in a cautious fight with two evenly matched opponents that know each other inside-out.

Into golden score with a penalty for Karakas giving Monteiro the edge, suddenly a shido each meant it was all on the line, and Karakas held on to win her first European title.

Bronze medals went to France's No.2 seed Sarah Cysique and German judoka Theresa Stoll.