Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi beat France’s Priscilla Gneto to regain her women’s under 52 kilograms title in the European Judo Championships at the Tatneft Arena in Kazan today.
Having started with two victories against Ukraine’s Oleksandra Starkova and Israel’s Roni Schwartz and then defeated another Frenchwoman, Annabelle Euranie, in the semi-finals, the two-time world champion overcame Olympic bronze medallist Gneto by ippon to reclaim the crown she won in 2014.
Kelmendi had only been allowed to compete under the Kosovan flag following the intervention of International Judo Federation (IJF) President Marius Vizer.
Russia does not recognise Kosovo and wanted them to compete under the banner of the IJF.
Delicate negotiations on the eve of the event, however, saw the situation resolved.
Home favourite Yulia Ryzhova and European Games champion Andreea Chitu of Romania secured the weight category’s bronze medals with wins over Euranie and Switzerland’s Evelyne Tschopp respectively.
Another medal came Kosovo’s way in the women’s under 57kg category as Nora Gjakova took the bronze medal, along with Israel’s Timna Nelson-Levy.
The winner of the gold medal was France’s Olympic bronze medallist Automne Pavia, who got the better of Bulgaria’s Ivelina Ilieva in the final.
France also struck gold in the men’s under 60kg category as 20-year-old Walide Khyar downed Azerbaijan's Orkhan Safarov.
The 2015 European junior champion becomes the fifth French judoka to win the title in the weight class and the first since Sofiane Milous in 2010.
Italy’s Elios Manzi breezed past Georgia’s Amiran Papinashvili to take one of the two bronze medals and was joined on the third step of the podium by Armenia’s Hovhannes Davtyan, who beat Turkey’s Bekir Ozlu.
In the men’s under 66kg final, Georgia’s Vazha Margvelashvili defeated Great Britain’s Colin Oates with a devastating harai-goshi.
It capped off an extremely impressive performance from the Tbilisi Grand Prix winner, who also beat number one seed Dzmitry Shershan of Belarus in the semi-finals and under 60kg Olympic champion Arsen Galstyan of Russia in the quarter finals.
Italy’s Fabio Basile won bronze at the expense of Shershan, while Galstyan ended the medal hopes of Slovenia’s Adrian Gomboc to the delight of the home crowd.
Top honours in the women’s under 48kg went the way of defending champion Charline Van Snick of Belgium.
The 25-year-old beat fellow Olympic bronze medallist Éva Csernoviczki of Hungary in the final.
Romania’s Monica Ungureanu and Turkey’s Dilara Lokmanhekim took the bronze medals as Italy’s Valentina Moscatt and Hungary’s Reka Pupp just missed out on the podium.
Action in Kazan is due to continue tomorrow with the women’s under 63kg and under 70kg, and men’s under 73kg and under 81kg categories all taking centre stage.
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