Aoife Coughlan’s night ended with a 5th Place finish while the rest of Team JudoAus showed great promise in the contests.
Uros Nikolic starts the night off with a win
Unable to compete in Portugal, Uros Nikolic was eager to get his 2022 season started in the Men’s -81 kg Division at the European Open in Sarajevo. His first-round match against Thomas Mercer, a 28-year-old representing Great Britain, was slow to start but saw Nikolic coming away with a victory after scoring an ippon via O-uchi-gari takedown with 2:00 left in the regulation period.
The young 21-year-old Australian looked poised to carry his momentum into his second-round where he would face Alfonso Urquiza Solana of Spain.
Young Maria Swan impressive in first-round loss
Four other Team JudoAus judokas were in action during the first-round of their respective divisions and none more impressive than the young 19-year-old Maria Swan who fought with the heart of a lioness in her Women’s -78 kg Division loss to Habi Magassa of France. This was the Australian’s first competition as a member of the senior team and she was eager to prove herself, fighting to the very end and scoring an amazing Waza-ari with just seconds to go in regulation to even the score and force the match into extra time.
Unfortunately, for Swan, fatigue began to set in allowing Magassa to take advantage and secure the win with a Waza-ari takedown at 3:01 in the golden score period.
In other first-round action, Harrison Cassar was hoping to build on the back of his performance in Portugal when he faced off against Mihailo Ciric of Serbia in the Men’s -90 kg Division. Unfortunately for Cassar, the 23-year-old Serbian was able to score his second Waza-ari with an Ashi-guruma at 2:07 remaining in regulation and ending the Australian’s night early.
Liam Park was set to kick off his 2022 campaign when he went up against Nodar Machutadze of Ukraine in their Men’s +100 kg Division match. The 26-year-old Australian had high hopes heading into this competition, but his Ukrainian opponent had other plans defeating Park with 3:08 left in regulation by way of an ippon takedown.
The last first-round match of the night for Team JudoAus was in the Men’s -90 kg Division where Robert Vukovich would compete for the first time this season. His opponent was the 25-year-old Teo L Herbier of France. While Vukovich showed spirit and determination, the Frenchman was victorious in the end, countering the Australian’s Ko-soto-gari with one of his own and scoring his second Waza-ari of the match bringing the contest to a stop with 2:51 remaining in the regulation period.
A hopeful second-round
While only one of the four remaining competitors advanced to the quarter-finals, the Team JudoAus judokas showed a lot of promise in their match-ups.
First to compete was young 20-year-old Rihari Iki in the Men’s -81 kg Division. Iki was poised to make an impression as this was his first time competing for Team JudoAus when he faced Luigi Pippa of Italy. The match was hard-fought by both judoka and the Australian had a couple of opportunities to win the match, including a near ippon that was later taken away by the judges after review. In the end, it would be the Italian’s night who scored a Waza-ari at :57 seconds into the golden score period when he countered Iki’s Ko-soto-gari.
Next on the mat for Team JudoAus was Uros Nikolic who was looking to make it two on the trot after winning his first-round contest, but the Spaniard, Alfonso Urquiza Solana, would prove to be too strong for Nikolic as he was able to secure an ippon by Katame-waza submission with 2:57 remaining in regulation.
Third up was another first-time competitor for Team JudoAus, Olena Usenko. Awaiting her was 27-year-old Sandra Lickun of Poland. Both judokas had first-round byes, so they were fresh and ready to start their Women’s -78 kg Division tournament. Usenko competed with spirit and challenged her opponent, but it would be Lickun who would come away with the win after she countered the Australian’s Koshi-waza throw to score her second Waza-ari with 2:05 left in regulation time.
Aoife Coughlan looked to start her 2022 campaign as the last Team JudoAus member to compete in the second-round. Her Women’s -70 kg Division opponent was young 20-year-old Merve Topoglu of Turkey. The match was well contested by both judokas, but it was Coughlan who came away with the win after Topoglu was given her third Shido at :11 seconds into the golden score period.
Aoife Coughlan places 5th
As the lone Team JudoAus competitor to advance to the quarter-final phase of Day 2, Coughlan was poised to make a run for the podium. In her quarter-final match against Sarah Maekelburg of Germany, Coughlan was pushed to the limit as the 24-year-old German fought hard to defeat the Australian, but it was Coughlan’s calculated approach and resolve that saw her through to the semi-fianls when she took down her opponent with a Ko-uchi-makikomi at 4:31 in the golden score period.
Her semi-final match was against a tough 30-year-old Anka Pogacnik of Slovenia. The pair were evenly matched as they competed for a guaranteed place on the podium. Unfortunately for Coughlan, she was given a Hansoku-make violation for falling to the mat while attempting an arm lock which granted the Slovenian the win with 1:23 remaining in the contest.
This violation would also cost Coughlan a chance to reach the podium as she was disqualified from her bronze medal match-up against Juliette Diollot of France.
While not the way Coughlan had envisioned her event in Sarajevo would turn out, a 5th Place finish to start the season is a great result for the Australian.
Day 2 results
Day 2 of the European Open in Sarajevo was the final day of competition and highlighted some great judo talent.
Lara Cvjetko won the gold in the Women’s -70 kg Division after she defeated Anka Pogacnik of Slovenia in their finals-round match. That makes it two tournament wins in a row for the Croatian who also won the same division at the Portugal Grand Prix.
In the Women’s -78 kg Division, it was Kosovo’s Loriana Kuka who won gold after she defeated Linda Politi of Italy. Not a bad result for Kuka in her first competition of the season.
The gold in the Women’s +78 kg Division was awarded to Valentine Marchand of France who defeated Urska Torkar of Slovenia. This was also Marchand’s first event of the season and a great way to start the year.
In the Men’s -81 kg Division, Arnaud Aregba of France won his countries second gold of the night when he defeated Abdul Malik Umayex of Germany. This was the young 19-year-old Frenchman’s first event win in a senior’s competition.
Germany’s Matijass Martin took home the gold in the Men’s -90 kg Division after defeating Mihailo Ciric of Serbia. The 26-year-old German was another winner who was competing in their first event of the season.
21-year-old Italian, Enrico Bergamelli won gold after he defeated Oleksii Yershov of Ukraine in the Men’s -100 kg Division final. This is Bergamelli’s first event win in only his third senior competition.
Vito Dragic of Slovenia defeated Munir Ertug of Turkey to win the gold in the Men’s +100 kg Division. A strong finish to start his 2022 season.
What’s next for Team JudoAus
They will get prepared to compete at the next European Open in Warsaw, Poland on the 26 – 27 of February.
Aofie Coughlan and Katharina Haecker, who will be in action for the first time this season, will be heading to Tel Aviv to compete in the IJF Grand Slam event on 17 – 19 of February.
More updates and news will be announced as the events draw near.
Author: Charles Hall
Information in this article can be found on the IJF Sarajevo Competition site: https://bit.ly/3gMO9TC