By Gary Anderson

September 14 - Germany's Miryam Roper carried on her great year with gold in RijekaGermany and France bagged two gold medals each on the first day of action at the International Judo Federation (IJF) Rijeka Grand Prix in Croatia, with top honours also going to South Korea and Britain.

Before the action got underway on the tatami at the Zamet Centre there was minutes silence for 88-year-old 9th Dan Kiyoshi Kobayashi of Japan, following his passing last Monday (September 9).

There were seven categories up for decision on the day with four in the women's and three in the men's competitions.

First up in the women's under 48 kilogramme class was a clash between European rivals Germany and France, and it was the French who came out on top as Scarlett Gabrielli bettered her silver medal at the 2013 Kazan Universiade with victory over Kay Kraus, whose two penalties for passivity ultimately cost her.

With just four competitors in this category, there was just one bronze medal match and Poland's Ewa Konieczny took home the medal after a yuko clinched victory over Anna Bartole of Italy.

The second match of the day proved more successful for Germany as top seed and World Championship bronze medallist Mareen Kraeh overcame veteran Ilse Heylen of Belgium who had won five of their previous six meetings, in the under 52kg class.

Great Britain's Faith Pitman (blue) claimed her first ever Grand Prix title with victory in the -63kg categoryGreat Britain's Faith Pitman (blue) claimed her first ever Grand Prix title with victory in the -63kg category

Portugal's European silver medallist Joana Ramos beat Hungarian Barbara Maros for bronze while former European champion Penelope Bonna of France overcame Universiade bronze medal winner Romy Tarangul of Germany.

It was gold medal number two for the Germans in the next final action as Miryam Roper confirmed her status as one of the rising stars of the sport by following up her World Championship bronze in Rio a matter of weeks ago, with victory here over seasoned campaigner Telma Monteiro of Portugal, in the under 57kg division.

The German's win now sees her move up to second in the world rankings after forcing her opponent to submit with a shime-waza .

Nora Gjakova of Kosovo proved too much for Canada's Stefanie Tremblay while 19-year-old compatriot Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard showed Tremblay how it is done by defeating Prague European Open winner Cindy Huber of France, in the bronze medal matches.

An emotional Faith Pitman of Great Britain shed tears of joy after securing her first ever Grand Prix gold in the under 63kg category.

The San Salvador Pan American Open winner beat Spanish champion Isabel Puche with an impressive display culminating in an ippon which her opponent had no answer for.

French duo Anne-Laure Bellard and Maelle DI Cintio battled it out for bronze with Madrid European Open winner Bellard coming out on top while the home crowd were treated to Croatia's fist medal of the meeting as Marijana Miskovic overcame Nina Milosevic of Slovenia.

The first men's medal of the day was claimed by Russia's Beslan Mudranov as he won out in the battle of former European champions against Sofiane Milous in the under 60kg class.

A tight encounter saw both fighters try to engineer winning moves but a fourth and final shido for Milous leading to the receipt of hansoku-make proved the Frenchman's undoing.

San Salvador Pan American bronze medallist Sergio Pessoa of Canada and Poland's Lukasz Kielbasinski claimed bronze medals against Matjaz Trbovc of Slovenia and the USA's Aaron Kunihiro respectively.

South Korean Bang Gui Man (second from left) proved too good for European champion Rok Draksic of Slovenia (far left)South Korean Bang Gui Man (second from left) proved too good for European champion Rok Draksic of Slovenia (far left)

Russia followed Germany's lead earlier in the day by bagging two gold medals in succession with victory in the men's under 66kg division.

Former European under 23 champion Denis Lavrentiev executed uchi-mata to score a waza-ari over Ukrainian Sergiy Pliyev with 90 seconds to go after what was a very competitive encounter that could have gone either way.

Britain secured its second medal of the day in the form of Colin Oates who defeated Slovenia's Andraz Jereb with the other bronze going to former Asian champion Choi Gwang-Hyeon of South Korea who bested Belgian national champion Jasper Lefevere.

The final contest of the day ended quite literally with a bang as South Korea's Bang Gui-Man drove Slovenia's European champion Rok Draksic to the mat for ippon with an uchi-mata to secure the under 73kg category.

In the bronze match-ups, Paris Grand Slam silver medallist Christopher Voelk grabbed another medal for Germany with victory over Ghana's Emmanuel Nartey while Russia's Aleksei Astafev defeated Daniel Williams of Great Britain.

To watch the latest action on JudoTV click here.

Photos©IJF Media Team by T. Zahonyi

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