The European Games is the top event once every four years in this continent which obviously continues the annual European Championships. The category U60kg has a few new guys in the pack that might make this category exciting without the interference of Asian or Pan American top athletes. Europe (Russia) won the Olympic titles of 2012 and 2016.
With Amiran Papinashvili perhaps the biggest name is mentioned but also the most experienced. He was European Champion in 2013 but his last European medal he won in 2015 at the European Games. With Lukhumi Chkhviami aiming to take over the dominance in Georgia this battle can get interesting. A new man who’s developing rapidly, at least with a Georgian name, is Tornike Tsjkadoea from the Netherlands. He already showed to be able to win a Grand Prix, was multi medallist in the IJF World Tour and progressing in top matches he lost so far. He definitely can stamp his name in these Games.
His Belgian nemesis Jorre Verstraeten has a similar career and is the youngest ever Belgian winner in the World Tour. They speak the same language and both trained in Israel a few weeks ago but avoided each-other.
Francisco Garrigos is still a big name since his Junior World title and multiple medals in the IJF World Tour, but the new kids on the kids can hurt him. Still Fran is one of the best fighters U60kg in Europe.
Yanislav Gerchev (BUL) is somewhat underestimated but was in the European final in 2017 and 2018 and should be considered among the favourites this edition and could be the first Bulgarian lightweight ever to take the European title and second ever in the Bulgarian history. Gerchev will fight Belgian ace Jorre Verstraeten in the first match, which is a pity, then Orkhan Safarov will wait. What a pool.
Interesting outsiders are Ashley McKenzie, still able to shine, at a positive day like he did last year in Tel Aviv. Frenchman Walide Khyar knows how to win the European title, he did it out of the blue in 2016 and is on a long way back to capture that desired podium place. He might fight Amiran Papinashvili in the quarter.
Let’s not forget Orkhan Safarov, not seeded anymore but definitely able to rock the best guys in this division. There’s a big bunch of outsiders, you cant call them dark horses anymore, we know them, they’ve won medals, but are not yet consistent enough to be in the top positions so far. It’s a pity that the Russian team sent Albert Oguzov, still a man in the challenger zone and in a pool with Ashley McKenzie. Of the five European titles that Russia won in this category since 2012 none of those judoka will compete in Minsk.