Day 1 Recap: Bittersweet Start to the 2022 European Open in Sarajevo

Many of the Team JudoAus Day-1 competitors were out early, but the day belonged to Joshua Katz.


Sam King delivers with a win to start the event


Following his 14-second first-round defeat at the Portugal Grand Prix, Sam King came into this contest with something to prove. His first-round opponent in the Men’s -73 kg Division was 24-year-old home crowd favourite Sasa Bjelica of Bosnia and Herzegovina. King came out with pace, going for a modified Kata-guruma within the first few seconds of the match, but the Bosnian was able to avoid giving up the big early score.


After a short exchange on the mat, the referee restarted the match, and the 25-year-old Australian continued his aggressive approach attempting several more takedowns, including another Kata-guruma. Bjelica was never able to mount any kind of offensive as King was relentless in his attack which led to a decisive takedown at one minute and twenty seconds into the contest.


The Bosnian was caught flatfooted as King produced a clean Uchi-mata throw that sent Bjelica tumbling to the mat, scoring a Waza-ari. The Australian was quick to gain control of his opponent as he maintained a tight grip around the upper torso of Bjelica who could only struggle to try and escape King’s hold, however, it was just too much for the Bosnian to overcome as King was able to immobilise him long enough to score his second Waza-ari, ending the match with 2:23 remaining in regulation.


Tough second round for Team JudoAus


The second round would see all six of the Day 1 Team JudoAus judokas in action. First on the mat was the Men’s -66 kg Division top seed Nathan Katz who was looking to bounce back after an unfortunate opening match loss at the Portugal Grand Prix when he faced Ruslan Pashayev of Azerbaijan.


The match was slow to start with both competitors waiting for their opponent to make a move. This tactic would continue until Katz attempted an Ippon-seoi-nage with one minute remaining in regulation time. The move nearly caught the Azerbaijani off-guard as Pashayev stumbled to find his feet as the two competitors rolled to the mat before being the referee called to restart the match.


This encounter sparked Katz who took a more offensive approach, attempting several takedowns before Pashayev caught the Australian with a counter to his Ippon-seoi-nage. As Katz moved in, the 21-year-old Azerbaijani anticipated his move, shifting his weight which caused the Australian to lose his balance. Pashayev quickly responded by throwing Katz to the mat and scoring a Waza-ari takedown with 38 seconds left in regulation.


After a brief grappling attempt by Pashayev, the match was restarted with Katz becoming more aggressive. As the clock ticked closer to zero, the young Azerbaijani became more defensive looking to secure his upset victory that was nearly spoiled when Katz delivered an almost textbook Uchi-mata throw with five seconds remaining in the contest. Pashayev went tumbling towards the mat but was able to cartwheel out of the throw, avoiding giving up a score and completing his upset victory over Katz.


Next on the mat for Team JudoAus in the second round was Men’s -73 kg Division judoka Jake Bensted. Looking to build upon his performance at the Portugal Grand Prix, the 27-year-old was poised to compete against Alexandre Mariac of France.


The contest started with both competitors coming out aggressive, looking to gain control of the match, but neither was able to get the upper hand. The two traded minor takedown attempts and holds over the first half of regulation time, but each time they found their opponent strong in their resolve.


After receiving two Shido’s for being non-combative, Bensted found himself in a difficult situation. One more Shido would lead to a Hansoku-make and an automatic win for Mariac, so the Australian would have to be careful not to commit any further infractions. As the match continued, Mariac found success with a nicely delivered O-uchi-gari, scoring a Waza-ari takedown with 1:52 remaining in regulation.


The two judokas continued to show fight as they traded takedown attempts, but in the end, the Frenchman was able to secure the victory over Bensted with a second Waza-ari takedown at 33 seconds remaining in regulation time.

Sam King’s second round match in the Men’s -73 kg Division was next for Team JudoAus as he squared off against Naim Matt of Switzerland. Matt came out aggressive with several strong hand checks that pushed King onto heels, but he was able to quickly recover as the two locked up.


As the pair traded takedown attempts, it was Matt who found success with an Uchi-mata that caused the Australian to end up face down on the tatami. The Swiss judoka quickly pounced on King’s back, rolling him over and gaining top control. King fought hard to break free, but Matt’s grip was too strong as he secured an ippon by grapple with 2:29 left in regulation.


The fourth judoka to compete for Team JudoAus was Joshua Katz who was taking on Francisco Mendes of Portugal in their Men’s -60 kg Division second round match-up. Katz struck first with an attempted Te-waza throw that was quickly parred by Mendes.


Following a few more intense exchanges, the 24-year-old judoka from Portugal was given a Shido for being non-combative as the duo unsuccessfully continued their attempts to score before regulation time.


Seconds into the golden score period, Mendes was given another Shido for being non-combative as Katz increased his offensive tactics. Moments later, the Australian found himself in a difficult position as Mendes looked to trap Katz with an Ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame but was unable to lock in the submission.


The two competitors continued to be aggressive as each worked to score the winning point, but it was Katz who would come out victorious after Mendes was given a third Shido for being non-combative, leading to a Hansoku-make at 1:16 into the golden score period.


The Team JudoAus women were next to compete in the second round with Tinka Easton up first against Lea Metrot of France in the Women’s -52 Division. Metrot looked to use her slight size advantage over the 25-year-old Australian and aggressively attacked with a Te-waza throw that sent Easton tumbling to the mat. The Frenchwomen quickly gained control of her opponent and worked to lock in a Kansetsu-waze, or joint lock as she fought to secure Easton’s right arm, but the Australian was too strong and was able to defend against the attack until a restart was called for by the referee.

The two women traded aggressive takedown attempts as the match went on, neither one relenting in their approach. At the halfway point of regulation time, Easton found purchase with her Seoi-nage takedown that sent the 21-year-old Frenchwoman toppling to the mat and scoring the Waza-ari for the Australian.


Down a point, Metrot continued her assault to try and draw level or secure a victory before regulation time ended, but Easton was equally as eager to win as she attempted several throws and grappling holds herself. Both women fought hard to the end, but the Australian Easton came out with the victory to advance to the quarterfinals.


The last Team JudoAus competitor in round two was 23-year-old Women’s -63 kg Division Maeve Coughlan who was going up against Nadiah Krachten of the Netherlands. This was Coughlan’s first competition of the year she came out strong but received two quick Shido’s early on.


As the match progressed, the two women fought hard to gain control over the other, trading takedown throws and grappling attempts, but neither was able to score a point. With time about to expire in regulation, Coughlan was given a third Shido for stepping out of the competition area. This gave the 21-year-old Krachten an ippon by Hansoku-make with:34 left in regulation time.


A fight for the bronze


With only two of the six Day 1 competitors left in the competition, Team JudoAus’ chance at the podium were diminished, but outstanding performances by Josh Katz and Tinka Easton had Australia competing late into the competition.


In her Women’s -52 kg Division quarterfinals match, Easton faced a tough 23-year-old Cleonia Riciu from Romania who produced a nice O-soto-gari takedown with 2:57 remaining in regulation time to score a victory by ippon. Although this defeat meant that Easton would not be in contention for winning the event, she still had a chance to reach the podium through the repechage rounds.


Her first opponent was Yaren Komurcu of Turkey. The pair were quick to get underway as both attempted aggressive takedowns early. In the end, the Australian prevailed after gaining top control on the mat. The young 18-year-old Komurcu fought to escape from the hold, but Easton’s grip was too strong as she was able to secure her spot in the bronze medal match with an ippon by grapple with 2:05 left in regulation.


Ana Viktorija Puljiz of the Netherlands awaited Easton in the Women’s -52 kg Bronze Medal match. The 20-year-old Dutchwoman was coming off a second-place finish at the Portugal Grand Prix and was the top-seeded competitor in this division.


The two competitors started off looking to feel out the match as each waited for the other to strike and it was Easton who found herself with the early chance to gain top control over Puljiz. As the Australian tried to find a gap in Dutchwoman’s defence, Puljiz was able to stay firm and avoid giving up an early scoring opportunity.


As the match resumed, Puljiz wasted little time in getting Easton to the mat with a Te-waza takedown where she worked her Australian counterpart with a strong grapple before the referee halted the action and order a restart of the match.


This time it was Easton who struck quick, but Puljiz met the Australian’s attempt at an Uchi-mata with a nice counter that scored her a Waza-ari as she gained control over Easton and began to work on her ground control. The young 20-year-old Dutchwoman stayed calm as she tried to pass Easton’s guard but was unsuccessful.


Puljiz continued to aggress the Australian with several failed rapid-fire Te-waza attempts but was able to find success with a counter to Easton’s attack that scored the Dutchwoman her second Waza-ari and secured the bronze medal for Puljiz.


Although Easton will be disappointed not to have reached the podium, a 5th Place finish is always a strong result and one that she can be proud of.


Over in the Men’s -60 kg Division quarterfinal, Joshua Katz was up against the young 20-year-old Spaniard, Pedro Gomez Llorens. The match did not start in favour of the Australian who quickly found himself in Gomez Llorens grapple early on, but a bloody nose for the Spaniard called a brief stop to the action.

Upon returning to the mat, the two continued to search for a takedown before the match was stopped again for Gomez Llorens to attend to his bloody nose. After a more extensive break, the Spaniard returned with a head wrap that would keep the bleed under control as the two competitors were unable to score before regulation time.

In the golden score period, Katz wasted little time and ceased upon his opportunity to score a Waza-ari and the win with a Harai-goshi takedown at:27 into the period.


His semi-finals match-up saw Katz face a tough, young Azerbaijani, Turan Bayramov. The 19-year-old Bayramov attacked quickly looking to score a takedown with a Ta-waza throw but was unsuccessful. Katz followed with a takedown attempt of his own, but the young Azerbaijani was able to foil his attack. The two men continued to aggressively look for openings to exploit before Bayramov found his chance to score a win by ippon with 3:09 remaining in regulation.


The loss meant that Katz would not be competing for gold but still had an opportunity to bring home a bronze.


Katz wins bronze


Josh Katz would face Tibo Volleman of the Netherlands in his Men’s -60 kg Division Bronze Medal final. The contest started with Katz gaining early control after Volleman’s attempt at a Te-waza takedown failed. Katz worked the hold briefly but was unable to gain an advantage before the referee stood the competitors up to restart the match.

The evenly matched pair continued to combat each other’s attacks with equally strong counters and defence, neither allowing the other to produce a score before regulation time expired. As the two men fought on into the golden score period, Katz was given a second Shido of the match for a false attack that seemed to draw the ire of some in the crowd who disagreed with the call.


Katz was able to maintain his composure however as he and the 26-year-old Dutchman continued battling for the bronze with aggressive takedown attempts being met by well-timed counter moves. As the match rolled on, fatigue began to set in on both competitors who struggled to find energy. Just after the clock had ticked past the six-minute mark, Vollman was given his third Shido for a false attack leading to a Hansoku-make at 6:09 in the golden score period and awarding Katz the bronze medal in the Men’s -60 kg Division.


This was Katz first top-four finish this season and an impressive fourth win in his last six matches.

Day 1 final results


Day 1 saw some great action and a lot of excitement as winners of the seven divisions competing were awarded.

In the Women’s -48 kg Division, Turkey’s Gulkader Senturk took home gold after she defeated fellow Turkish woman Ebru Sahin by ippon with 1:37 remaining in regulation time of their matchup.


The gold in the Women’s -52 kg Division was awarded to Binta Ndiaye of Switzerland who defeated Romania’s Cleonia Riciu with an Ippon with 3:33 in regulation time.


Carla Ubasart Mascaro of Spain was crowned the champion of the Women’s -57 kg Division after she defeated Thauany David Capanni Dias of Italy by ippon with 2:08 remaining in the match.


Spain won gold for the second time on the night when Spaniard Sarai Padilla Guerrero defeated Agathe Devitry of France in the Women’s – 63 kg Division with a Waza-ari score at 2:20 in the golden score period.


Over in the men’s competition, Turan Bayramov of Azerbaijan scored the victory over fellow Azerbaijani Samir Piriyev with an Ippon at 1:08 in the golden score period to win the gold in the Men’s -60 kg Division.


In the Men’s -66 kg Division, Turkey’s Ejder Toktay secured his country’s second gold on the night after he defeated Spain’s Adrian Nieto Chinarro by an Ippon with 2:30 remaining in regulation time.


Michael Adam of Germany was the gold medal victor in the Men’s -73 kg Division after he defeated Yannick van der Kolk of the Netherlands with a Waza-ari score at 2:01 in the golden score period.


Looking ahead


Day 2 and the final day of the competition is slated to start later tonight at 6:00 pm AEST.


Team JudoAus will have eight competitors in action. In the men’s -81 kg Division, Uros Nikolic and Rihari Iki will be representing Australia. Harrison Cassar and Robert Vukovich will also be representing the green and gold in the Men’s -90 kg Division.


Liam Park and Aoife Coughlan will be the lone Team JudoAus competitors in their respective divisions as Liam competes in the Men’s +100 kg Division while Aoife takes on the competition in the Women’s -70 kg Division.


Rounding off the team will be Olena Usenko and Maria Swan who will both be competing for Team JudoAus for the first time at a senior competition.


Be sure to stay up to date with the latest news and live results by heading over to the Judo Australia Facebook page @JudoAus.


Or catch all the action live on the IJF Channel, live.ijf.org.


Author: Charles Hall

Information in this article can be found on the IJF Sarajevo Competition site: https://bit.ly/3gMO9TC