The weight division for women U52kg has become more competitive. In the past it was a rather boring category, but the Europeans have taken over with Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo as strong favourite, but also other athletes developed well. Andreea Chitu of Romania is one of the most experienced in the field and delivered some incredible performances. Chitu will face Laura Gomez or Distria Krasniqi, not the easiest starting match. Kelmendi truly has an easy pool and will walk straight to the semi final without wasting energy.
Kelmendi is still busy with her comeback and times her victories well. She won the very prestigious Paris Grand Slam twice within less than six months. At one of those golden moments, she defeated Chitu in the final. Kelmendi's compatriot Distria Krasniqi is not seeded but is one of the biggest dark horses for this competitive championship.
This Olympic cycle European Champions
2015 Andreea Chitu (ROU)
2014 Majlinda Kelmendi (IJF)
2013 Natalia Kuziutina (RUS)
2012 Andreea Chitu (ROU)
The Russian favourite though is Natalia Kuziutina although she hasn’t been much around in the circuit, but traditionally warmed up in South American in the Panam Tour. Kuziutina has won three European titles and belong to the best athletes ever in this categoory.
French experienced judo mother Annabelle Euranie is perhaps a big threat to all of them. The tall French has secured her Olympic spot despite the severe competition.
Italian Odette Giuffrida is back in the Top athletes of the world with two good victories in Rome and Tbilisi.
Last year’s winner of the European Games in Baku were:
Andreea Chitu (ROU)
Annabelle Euranie (FRA)
Natalia Kuziutina (RUS)
Mareen Kraeh (GER)
With experienced judoka such as Annabelle Euranie, Joana Ramos and Ilse Heylen, this category has the oldest athlete in the field. Belgian's Ilse Heylen is 39 and will qualify for her fourth olympic Games. Heylen is one pool with Mareen Kraeh, Jaana Sundberg all +30.
It's unlikely she will win the tournament, but she can become the oldest ever European medallist.
European athletes in the IJF World Ranking
1 Andreea Chitu (ROU)
3 Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
4 Annabelle Euranie (FRA)
6 Natalia Kuziutina (RUS)
8 Mareen Kraeh (GER)
10 Priscilla Gneto (FRA)
Watch JudoInside's favourites below