A very strong men’s tournament is taking place at the Junior European Cup in Malaga with over 32 athletes in each category at day one, a difference to the women’s heavier weights with 10-20 women. It delivered a few strong winners with Japan, Georgia and Ukraine as winning countries.
World Champions class in the final U60kg
In the men’s lightweight class 35 young men with an expected winner Giorgi Sardalashvili (GEO) on top of the podium in the South of Spain. The Junior World Champion from Georgia bested his Japanese opponents Keiji Tsujioka in the final U60kg. It was the first Junior European Cup with Japanese participants and the team did well. Sardalashvili was however one bridge too far for former Cadet World Champion Tsujioka who was on the podium with bronze medal winners Alexandru Matei (ROU) and Nazar Viskov (UKR). The last Spanish victory at the Junior European Cup in Spain was in 2014 for current European Champion Franc Garrigos, he won the title even three times, but hasn’t had a follow up since.
Japan did win the gold U66kg, the class of the heroic Hifumi Abe. His ‘smaller’ version from Japan Yamato Fukuda prevailed today in Malaga as he bested Germany’s Nicolas Kunze in the final. In fact it was mostly the Germans who performed outstanding with three men on the podium in a field of 40 men. Levi Maerkt (GER) and David Ickes (GER) took the bronze medal in this tough division. Fukuda is now in the books alongside beautiful past winners such as Baruch Shmailov, Manuel Lombardo and Kazbek Naguchev.
Even more participants U73kg with 51 at the start. Anton Shuhalieiev of the Ukraine became the winner, again with a German competitor in the final, Jano Ruebo (GER). His teammate Philip Drexler (GER) finished with bronze and another Ukraine fighter Vladyslav Kazimirov (UKR) secured the bronze medal.
Kazachstan closes a gap
In the women’s division U63kg 20 young women with a surprising team from Kazachstan, surprising as you don’t see the women very often. Kazachstan grabbed the gold here with Esmigul Kuyulova who defeated French Clara Galludec. Remarkable two other French completed the podium taking bronze; Juliette Poulain and Lili Nguyen. Since 2013, eight different countries won this class and the last winner from Kazachstan in Spain was in 2013. The last female Kazach winner at a Junior European Cup was in 2019, sounds like a huge gap closed today.
Now it was time for the Japanese juniors to showcase their style. Mayu Honda won the category U70kg against Spanish homefighter Noelia Insua Iglesias. Sarah Mehlau and Juliette Diollot (FRA) took a bronze medal.
Unique performance from Puerto Rico
U78kg just eleven women and in this division there was gold for Kurena Ikeda (JPN) who defeated Carolina Paiva (POR). Jade Omerkoylu (NED) performed well and took the bronze as well as Puerto Rican Sairy Colon Rodriguez who is the first Puerto Rican medalwinner at a Junior European Cup since 2017 and the first ever female medalwinner in Europe.
The heavyweight title went to Mao Arai of Japan with little opposition of 10 athletes. Kazachstan did well again in this class with silver for Karina Takiyeva and bronze for Aida Toishibekova (KAZ). French Dounia Nacer secured the second bronze medal.