In front of his audience, Yashar Najafov (AZE), seeded number 1, dreamed of reaching the Moon. To do this he first had to pass the preliminary phases and reach the final. If everything started for the best, with a first victory against Julien Frascadore (CAN) with a superb standing seoi-nage, which only just missed the flat landing to be qualified as an ippon, then another victory against Rufat Aleskerov (AIN), the semi-final against Alberto Gaitero Martin (ESP) was more complicated. It was ultimately the Spanish judoka who obtained his ticket to the final thanks to the advantage of penalties.
Yasher Najafov's quarter-final victory.

Despite the defeat of Yashar Najafov, the host country was offered a second chance for a gold medal with Rashad Yelkiyev (AZE), since although he was not seeded, ranked down at 205 on the WRL, he qualified for a semi-final, against the Frenchman Daikii Bouba.

Rashad Yelkiyev was over the Moon to win his quarter-final.

Bouba has had checkered results recently, a silver medal during the 2022 Masters in Jerusalem, then bronze in Portugal in 2023, he only added a 5th place to his 2023 harvest, in Tokyo in December. Today in Baku, the French judoka found his energy and enthusiasm, much to the misfortune of Yelkiyev and joined Alberto Gaitero Martin in the final.

Gaitero Martin's quarter-final win.

Rufat Aleskerov (AIN) and Rashad Yelkiyev (AZE) qualified for the first match for the bronze medal. The former was the first to place a score on the board, throwing for waza-ari with great speed and agility. Despite an exciting response from his Azeri opponent, a second score came in the fourth minute and sent the bronze to Aleskerov.

The bronze medal was a step to far for Yelkiyev (AZE).

Willian Lima (BRA) and Yashar Najafov (AZE) had a chance to reach the podium and it was the Brazilian who gave his opponent a scare in the first exchange, picking him up high off the tatami but he couldn’t finish it and so they reset. At full time a shied either way would have finished things and so the golden score period began with this in mind. It was Najafov who finished the day with a medal in his pocket, much to the delight of his home crowd.

Lima (BRA) and Najafov (AZE).

In the final Alberto Gaitero Martin (ESP) took the gold with a hold down for ippon in golden score. Bouba (FRA) worked hard throughout the contest but was always a step behind. Both will step on to the podium but with the Spanish flag held highest.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Chingiz Huseynzade, Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan, and Mr Elnur Mammadov, Head of Sports Division of the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Final (-66 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-66 kg)

See also