The Russian and Belgian team performed well at the Junior European Cup in Gdynia last weekend. For the second time Gdynia hosted this European Cup event, which was previously held in Wroclaw. The Polish team took nine medals, but just missed capturing gold. Belgium, on the other hand, reached an all-time high medal count in the junior age division.
The five finals for Belgium where a great surprise and motivation for the team and coaches. Julien DeBruycker started with silver against Theo Raoul Hebrard (FRA) on Saturday. Naoufal Ez Zerrad captured gold U60kg against Pierre Dumontier of France. The French lost four finals, but won gold three times. The Russians were strong in the men’s category with four gold medals. The first went to Ayub Khazhaliev U66kg, who faced Daniel Jean. Alexandr Kolesnik grabbed the second gold for Russian U73kg.
The Belgian women were also strong in the U52kg and U57kg categories where Myriam Blavier defeated Polish Klaudia Cieslik U52kg and Mina Libeer bested Julia Kowalczyk, also from Poland. On Sunday Gabriella Willems (BEL) defeated Hilde Jager (NED) in a battle of the tall juniors. Belgium has taken eleven gold medals this season, an all-time record. The previous record (1999) has already improved on with four European Cups still remaining. Last year Belgium won fourteen medals, but no golds. Now they seemed to have found the solution to finish their finals on top.
The French women took gold via Marine Gilly (U44kg) and Melanie Vieu (U48kg) even in a French final with three French on the podium. Canadian Émilie Burt (U63 kg) was the gold medal winner in her division. She dominated her opponents by ippon including the last victory over France’s Yasmine Horlaville.
Patricia Sampaio won the third gold medal of her country, Portugal, this season and her first. Sampaio defeated Allayah Copeland (CAN) in the final U78kg. Heavyweight Marketa Paulusova won the first gold for Czech Republic since David Klammert's 2014 victory, and she was the second Czech woman since Lucie Chytra in 2005.
In Sunday’s men’s divisions Dutchman Jesper Smink claimed the gold U81kg. In both U81kg and U90kg Ukraine lost the final; Russian Iurii Bozha won gold U90kg. Who else other than Simeon Catharina won the gold in Gdynia U100kg. In the final he bested Kacper Szczurowski of Poland. Daniel Mukete of Belarus won one of the four medals for Belarus. Yahor Kukharenka was the second in the heavyweight class when he won bronze. The gold though went to Alexander Antonov (RUS) when he overcame Leonid Gasyuk. The Ukraine was unlucky this weekend with four lost finals.