Home comfort is something special, not that Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) needs it, but when his experience combines with a passionate crowd shouting his name at the top of their lungs, victory is the only end result.

Heydarov, as we predicted, began in sublime fashion for the host nation. He kicked off the day with a waza-ari and then got one more with a seoi-otoshi to secure a win over Karim Adarvez (ARG). Luka Kapanadze (GEO) was then disqualified against him. Adam Stodolski (POL) was next and received a third penalty in golden score; Heydarov could thank him for that.

Final, Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) vs Abubakr Sherov (TJK)

Another Azeri judoka, Rashid Mammadaliyev benefited in Pool B as fourth seed Tohar Butbul (ISR), a silver medallist in Baku in 2019, bowed out on penalties. To the delight of the home crowd, Mammadaliyev marched on against Zhansay Smagulov (KAZ), after which he held on to win against Ejder Toktay (TUR) to set up a semi-final against Heydarov. That, however, was the end of the straight run as Heydarov scored a waza-ari in golden score, the end of a fantastic contest.

Gold medallist, Hidayat Heydarov (AZE)

Obidkhon Nomonov (UZB), a three-time grand slam medallist, was in for a shocker in pool C in the second round against Ayub Khazhaliev (AIN). It was a see-saw of a match with the Uzbek using an ashi-waza technique to make the first mark. Khazhaliev received a shido soon after before making it a waza-ari each. The contest went into golden score but straight away Khazhaliev performed a fast ouchi-gari to make it waza-ari-awasete-ippon.

Khazhaliev continued the good run, against Dardan Cena (KOS), with two waza-ari scores and reached the semi-final after a te-waza earned him ippon against Joan-Benjamin Gaba (FRA).

We witnessed a surprise loss as third seed Arthur Margelidon, who has many grand slam medals to his name, went down to Abubakr Sherov (TJK) in the quarter-finals, thanks to brilliant ashi-waza, enough for the waza-ari win to be logged.

Bronze medal contest, Ejder Toktay (TUR) vs Ayub Khazhaliev (AIN)

The Canadian could win bronze if he got the better of Mammadaliyev, after winning against Gaba in the repechage. Sherov, meanwhile, continued his run thanks to an early waza-ari against Khazhaliev to reach the final.

The first bronze medal match between Toktay and Khazhaliev saw the former receive two shidos. The Turkish judoka then began to attack, leading to a penalty for Khazhaliev in golden score. It gave him confidence as a waza-ari soon followed for the bronze medal. 

Bronze medal contest, Arthur Margelidon (CAN) vs Rashid Mammadaliyev (AZE)

In the other bronze medal contest, Margelidon had a nervy start against Mammadaliyev, receiving a penalty. The local judoka was soaking in the atmosphere as Margelidon felt the pressure, receiving another penalty. However, experience prevailed in the end as the Canadian engaged for an osae-komi-waza, for which Mammadaliyev had no answer. He held on to win the bronze with a waza-ari. The contest also saw great sportsmanship after the result, from both athletes, which is why we love the sport. 

Heydarov's entrance raised the decibel levels in Baku with drum rolls and cheers as the final against Sherov (TJK) began. The pressure got to both of them each being penalised twice. The fight went to golden score. Heydarov was vigilant and used a quick change of direction to employ a sensational sumi-gaeshi, using his opponent’s momentum against him, to make his country proud.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mr Rashad Nabiyev, President of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation, and Mr Elnur Mammadli, Olympic champion, member of the IJF Hall of Fame and Vice President of the Azerbaijan Judo Federation

Final (-73 kg)

Bronze Medal Fights (-73 kg)

See also