It was an emotional second day of the European Judo Championship in Sofia. The final U81kg was between number one and two in the World Ranking, World Champion Matthias Casse of Belgium and Tato Grigalashvili of Georgia. Casse walked into two fast penalties and then in the third minute came the attack of Grigalashvili, a beautiful sode that was inevitable to avoid. It was launched with speed and in fact overthrown and he was awarded with a wazari.
The Italian referee added a third penalty for avoiding the throw, the third penalty for Casse who also got surprised. The gold went to Georgia, just like in 2020. Grigalashvili regained his European title, taken by Albayrak last year. Grigalashvili comes close to legend Avtandili Tchrikishvili who won the European title three times in a row 2013-2015.
Sami Chouchi was the winner of the bronze medal, another medal for Belgium, for the first time two medallists in one weight category in Belgian history. Youngster Hievorh Manukian of Ukraine had a close fight with old fox Attila Ungvari, an age gap of 10 years (23 vs 33). Ungvari won the fight in golden score and celebrated his third European bronze medal with his coach and older brother Miki Ungvari. It was a second loss for Ukraine in a medal fight U81kg.
The gold in the men’s U73kg category was for Hidayet Heydarov. He is back in 2022 after the victory in Tel Aviv as a starter, he now claimed the gold at Sofia’s European Championships. Heydarov was planed on the podium, but you never know as it was a serious battlefield on Saturday where World Champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili lost his second contest against Giovanni Esposito. The Italian reached the final in the end after he defeated Adrian Sulca of Romanian in the semi final. Sulca won a pool with Akil Gjakova and Tohar Butbul. Bulgarian Mark Hristov won a pool and defeated Rustam Orujov the second Azeri, but in the end both stood on the podium, another success for host Bulgaria.
Heydarov had a tough first minute against Giovanni Esposito, who know each-other from their junior time. Actually Heydarov had also fought his older brother Antonio. It was Esposito who made the first moves and put Heydarov under pressure with a tough pace, but Heydarov made it to the repechage and the struck with a golden score and regained the European title that he won in 2017 in Warsaw. He took silver and bronze in 2018 and 2019, but this time was again the golden boy with his pal Orujov on his left side of the podium with bronze.