Russia dominated an action-packed first day of sambo action at the 2nd European Games here as they won four of the nine gold medals on offer in the Sports Palace.
It was a satisfying conclusion to a day that had started with the Russia’s International Sambo Federation President Vasily Shestakov reflecting positively on the sport’s provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
He added that he was “very hopeful” of inclusion, “perhaps by Paris 2024".
The home nation had two golds to celebrate, as did Georgia.
But arguably the performance of the day came from the other gold medallist from Ukraine, Anastasiia Sapsai, who beat Georgia’s world champion Elane Kebadze in the final of the women’s over-80 kilograms class.
Russia’s Elena Bondareva won the first sambo gold medal of the Games in the women’s under-48kg class.
The 34-year-old, who has two world and two European titles to her name, as well as a gold at the 2013 FISU Universiade in Kazan, beat Ukraine’s Anastasiia Novikova 2-0.
Anfisa Kapayeva of Belarus overcame Armenia’s Asya Lalazaryan for one of the bronzes on offer at under-48kg, the other going to Bulgaria’s Tsvetelina Tsvetanova, who beat Romania’s Daniela-Mihaela Chiss.
Belarus had reason to celebrate as Aliaksandr Koksha earned gold with a 5-0 win over Georgia’s Mindia Liluashvili in the men’s under-68kg category.
Russia’s Nikita Kletsov and Azerbaijan’s Emil Hasanov claimed bronze.
And a second Belarus sambo athlete reached the top of the podium – albeit through a stroke of bad luck for their opponent.
Anzhela Zhylinskaya sealed gold in the women’s under-72kg final after Georgia’s Nino Odzelashvili had to drop out through injury while 2-0 up.
Russia’s Tatiana Kazeniuk earned an 8-0 win over Anastasiia Arkhipava of Belarus in the women’s under-56kg category.
France’s Laure Fournier and Romania’s Daniela Poroineanu took bronze.
A 7-0 win against Armenia’s Davit Grigoryan was enough for Russia’s 34-year-old Andrey Perepelyuk to wrap up gold in the men’s under-82kg class.
Georgia’s Besarioni Berulava and home athlete Tsimafei Yemelyanau had to be content with bronze.
And Russia’s Ekaterina Onoprienko beat Olena Sayko of Ukraine in the final of the women’s under-64kg class.
Bronze medals went to Romania’s Anda-Mihaela Valvoi and home athlete Tatsiana Matsko.
Georgia’s Vakhtangi Chidrashvili grabbed the men’s under-57kg title after racking up superior classification points after finishing at 1-1 with Russia’s Sayan Khertek.
Bronze medals went to Uladzislau Burdz of Belarus and Mehman Khalilov of Azerbaijan.
Daviti Loriashvili handed Georgia their second gold with a 2-0 win over Latvia’s Viktors Resko in the men’s under-100kg sambo final.
Russia’s Alsim Chernoskulov and Denis Tachii of Moldova claimed bronze.
Earlier in the day Shestakov had said: "At the meeting of the IOC Executive Board in Tokyo in November last year, we received the endorsement of the IOC and in May this year I attended SportAccord in Australia where I was congratulated by many IOC members and delegates from other sports.
"I have since talked to a number of federation Presidents of Olympic sports and they tell me they would be happy to have us make it into the Olympic family.
"We are going about making sure the documentation is in place with such things as rights and financing so we can progress our negotiations to have sambo become an Olympic sport.
"It has been a long road to get to this point on the Olympic pathway but we are very hopeful of Olympic inclusion, maybe by Paris 2024.
"Ours is a young organisation, only 35 years old, and we take a very youthful approach to promotion of our sport.
“Today there is competition in some 120 countries and more and more people are taking part or coming to sambo events each year or watching sambo on the various media platforms.
"Today, for instance, there were people gathered at the doors of the competition venue trying to get additional tickets."
Russia’s Sergey Eliseev, President of the European Sambo Federation, added: "We hope that the competition that takes place here in Minsk, along with the IOC recognition, will demonstrate the true status of the development of our sport, particularly across the European continent.
"Here we have 173 athletes competing from 28 countries in nine men's and nine women's categories and all of them know that they are representatives of a growing sport that might one day take them to an Olympic Games.
"Everyone is giving everything they can.
"They are behaving admirably and all feel very comfortable here in Minsk.
"The mood of the city is helping make these European Games a true festival of sport.
"The Opening Ceremony was beautiful."
FIAS general secretary Roberto Ferraris said: "The Minsk 2019 European Games is a very important competition for the ongoing development of our sport.
"We can confidently say that following recognition by the IOC, sambo will appear in many more multi-sport events."
Alexander Kobrusev, chairman of the Belarusian Sambo Federation, said: "It's not just about handing medals to athletes, everything here is organised very well.
"This competition is indeed another step for the development of our sport and I know our athletes will have a wonderful experience here in Belarus.
"The best sambo athletes are here and we welcome them warmly."