JudoInside – News – Queen Nekoda Davis is back on the throne
The French showed their skills on the first day of the European Open in Riccione. With two gold medals, France leads the medal table. Two good victories gave a good start to the French who saw Reda Seddouki (FRA) on the podium with gold after beating Orkhan Safarov (AZE) in the final. They were accompanied on the podium by Orlando Cazorla (FRA) and Eric Takabatake (BRA) in his U66kg category.
France also clinched a gold medal in the U73kg division where Luca Otmane (FRA) was able to beat Salvador Cases Roca (ESP). The Spaniard won his semi-final against European U66kg champion Bogdan Iadov who eventually took fifth place as his compatriot Artem Khomula (UKR) signed for bronze alongside Gabriele Sulli (ITA).
In the lightest weight category, Salih Yildiz (TUR) won the gold medal. In the final he managed to defeat Rovshan Aliyev (AZE) who was the second (or actually the first) Azeri to lose the final today. Another Ukrainian athlete Dilshot Khalmatov won bronze along with bronze medalist Richard Vergnes (FRA). France won five bronze medals today as well as the two titles in Italy. For Yildiz, it was the first World Cup victory of his career.
Nekoda is back
Nekoda Smythe-Davis (GBR) has drawn a lot of confidence from Italy. She was satisfied after her fifth place last week in Oberwart where she fought in U63kg and just wanted to touch the tatami again. This time she snatched gold in a competitive category. In the final, Nekoda Smythe-Davis defeated Croatian talent Tihea Topolovec. Former European medalist Pauline Starke (GER) and France’s Ophélie Vellozzi won bronze. Mother Nekoda is back the weekend a new king has been installed, she will remember this one. For Davis, it was the sixth World Cup victory of his career. His last victory was in October 2019 and it was his first victory at the European Open. She won the Africa and Oceania open early in her career (2014) so the big gap has been closed today. She proved able to mingle again with the real guns in her class. Is an 8-year gap unique? Well… Nick Delpopolo closed the same gap last week in Tahiti between his previous World Cup victory in 2014 in Port Louis and last week in Tahiti. It’s still a big gap, but there have been more in the history of judo.
The lightweight category also had good quality where Spain’s Mireia Lapuerta Comas was the happiest with a gold medal. She is in a hell of a fight with the two strongest Spaniards in her division but this time struck with a motivational medal in Italy. She won her final against Marusa Stangar (SLO), another strong athlete who is on her way back. The talented French Blandine Pont (FRA) won a bronze medal as well as Katharina Menz (GER) who was rewarded for her efforts in all training camps. Lapuerta Comas’ colleague, Laura Martinez Abelenda, this year holds the record for silver medals at the World Cups in Madrid, Prague and Tbilisi. Lapuerta usually wins his last contest of his events. She has therefore taken many medals since 2021 with a victory in her last competition, which is a quality in itself.
Well, the Germans weren’t bad at all here in Riccione with a gold medal for Mascha Ballhaus, her first important victory. She even beat 2021 world medalist Fabienne Kocher (SUI) in the U52kg final. Gabriela Dimitrova (BUL) and Julie Weill Dit Morey (FRA) may not be the most attractive names, but that says a lot about their performance today with 22 women at the start. All women’s divisions had more than 20 starters and the U63kg category was for Israel.
Inbal Shemesh (ISR) beat Annabelle Winzig (GER) in the last final of the day. Another medal for Germany by Vivian Herrmann (GER), who won 5 medals in total. Cristina Cabaña (ESP) added another color for Spain. Six winning European nations is a good score with a lot of variety. On Sunday, the Brits could strike again with a few British favourites.