At -60 kg, Musayev (AZE) and Polikevicius (LTU) showed that ranking is important and accurate for cadets as much as it is for the seniors. The two, ranked 1 and 7 in the world, seeded 1 and 4 in Zagreb, came through their side of the draw perfectly to meet in the semi-final. Belgian, French, Romanian, Slovakian, Japanese and Canadian opponents couldn’t halt them in their tracks. Opponents from Europe, Asia and Pan-America gave it their best but the two young athletes had an answer for every question, the Lithuanian shocking Yamamoto (JPN) perhaps most of all.
The bottom half of the draw was a completely different story, with Middleton of Australia, the number 2 seed, heading to the exit after Kravchenko (UKR), from his starting position at 26th in the world, dealt with him in round 3 ahead of taking a loss against the super-strong Tajik, arriving from even further down the list: 111! The rankings seemed to be upside down!
Bobokanolov (TJK) couldn’t quite hold on to his winning streak, losing in the semi-final to 6th seed Ashpiz (ISR). The Tajik dropped into a very much deserved bronze medal contest against Mosoi (ROU) while the other bronze was contested by Kravchenko and Polikevicius, the latter having been beaten by Musayev in their semi-final.
Mosoi in action:
Tajikistan took home that world bronze, won with a sumi-gaeshi for waza-ari at about half time, the remaining time well managed and without too much risk.
The other bronze was almost a continuous roll from standing to ground and back up again, attacks on the border or scores and shime-waza coming close to ending the contest. In one exchange Kravchenko tried to throw but with far too little rotation and the Lithuanian was there to punish it, taking his belt and rolling him with an almost perfect sumi-gaeshi for waza-ari. The Ukrainian coach protested but it was clear that the score was legitimate as Kravchenko had not put his hands on the floor and was therefore still in tachi-waza. The coach was not happy but the rules are written and published. It is important that all coaches stay up to date and ensure any protests are handled in the right way, according to the published rules.
The final treated everyone to a flurry of action, both competitors finding the tiniest gaps in which to threaten. The quality of judo was easily mistakable for the older categories, anticipation being incredible from both. They each picked up two penalties by half time but the scoreboard didn’t illustrate the pace or level of the contest. Then in a 50-50 clinch the Israeli managed to land the world number one in his lower back and two elbows and so a waza-ari was scored. Disappointingly for the Azeri, there had to also be a shido for the double-elbow landing and so that was where it ended. Israel has a new world champion.
In the -66 kg category, Abil Yusubov (AZE) arrived with an expectation to win. He was 7th last year in Sarajevo and kept his ranking as high as it could be by winning golds in Teplice and at the European Cadet Championships in June. He’s a big thrower with an immense ability to attack from the tiniest spaces and in Zagreb he proved it again through 4 contests on the way to the final.
Yusubov would have to fight off a big challenge from Szulik (POL) in the final. They are old rivals from the last couple of years on the cadet circuit but the Azerbaijani so far remains on top. Szulik stormed past Dularidze (GEO), the only semi-finalist not among the top 4 seeds, to take his place in the final.
Ribeiro (POR) was seeded third but after a bye and a win he lost out to the explosive Tajik in the group, Loiqov, who then himself lost to Dularidze. Not being able to reach the final block will have been disappointing for the Portuguese seoi-otoshi specialist but Georgia will be celebrating their athlete taking his place.
Two Georgians fought for bronze, both Dularidze and Givishvili. The former was up first, taking on Uzbek Telmanov, a young judoka who had only lost to the world number one, up to that point. Telmanov was first to score, not giving up in a 50-50 situation and planting Dularidze for waza-ari with only a minute left on the clock. The Georgian answered with a makikomi, also for waza-ari, with half a minute remaining and so the contest went into golden score. Telmanov then set up a clever entry, changing direction to produce just the right reaction to be able to throw and score again.
Givishvili then stepped up in an effort to see the Georgian flag fly over the podium. Antonio Rocha (BRA) stood in front of him, having been the author of Azerbaijan’s disappointment earlier in the day, taking out their massive thrower, Ibadli. His strong left osoto-gari was awkward for the Georgian but Givishvili is capable of disturbing anyone and well inside normal time he switched sides and flew in with a soto-makikomi for ippon. Georgia will be on the podium after all.
Despite Ibadli’s early exit, the Azeri world number one was still in. His final was not easy, on paper though as the Polish fighter has an outstanding tokui-waza which all of the world’s best have succumbed to at some point this year. The world number 3 launched himself under Givishvili after only 40 seconds of the final had passed and that tokui-waza did its job yet again. He threw the Azeri for ippon with a seoi-otoshi and made up for his 5th place finish at the Europeans only a few weeks ago.
With the gold medal around his neck, Szymon Szulik said, “I think I found a good moment in this fight. I don’t know what else to say. I know I still need a lot of work so I will continue to practice the seoi but I will also take something new." What a great mindset and the perfect springboard into his junior career.