Despite the busy weekend with a European event in Lisbon, the Belgian Open in Visé had a good field. Across seven weight categories the French judoka were clearly the strongest. With two gold and eleven medals in total, the French held a 20% stake in the distribution. However, for the Sunday home crowd the victory of Toma Nikiforov was the most appealing.
Nikiforov was one of the favourites U100kg, but the field was competitive with Jose Armenteros of Cuba and Dimitri Peters of Germany. It was Nikiforov who met the expectation and defeated both strong men. He conquered Armenteros in the final with a huge ippon and the world bronze medalist celebrated explosively with a scream heard in the Netherlands and Germany.
Visé, close to both borders, again delivered fine judo in the traditional hall where probably in ten years everything will look just as it did 20 years ago. Over time in this historic venue, the Belgian Open for men has produced its share of amazing winners and memorable moments. This year the winners came from France, Canada, Germany, Cuba, and Belgium.
U60kg Luka Mkheidze was the winner in the final against Romaric Bouda. Both French made it a lively match, but the Georgian Frenchman Mkheidze outsmarted Bouda.
On Sunday, Antoine Bouchard placed first overall in the U66kg group. He put in a perfect performance, ousting Matthijs Van Harten of the Netherlands as well as Kevin Nanor, Robin Corrado, and Kevin Azema of France.
Arthur Clerget dominated his category (U73kg) and caught Julian Kolein (GER) by surprise in a good final. Germany won gold though Dominic Ressel, who appears to be in great shape lately. Ressel bested British Owen Livesey in the final.
Germany's second gold medal was from another man in top form, Eduard Trippel. He surprised lately with his German title and again showed that he is also a strong force internationally. In the last round, U90kg Trippel, just 19 years old, defeated Dutchman Bas van Empelen, 20, in the youngest final of the tournament.
The heavyweight category title went to Cuban Alex Garcia Mendoza. Mendoza prevented a third victory for Germany as he bested Andre Breitbarth. Benjamin Harmegnies (BEL) and Tobias Mol (NED) won bronze. Harmegnies and Flavio di Marca won the two other medals for Belgium, but the sweet victory of Toma Nikiforov with its explosive end was the highlight of the weekend.