Irish judo is stronger than ever. Remarkable the Fletcher family consisting of Megan (women’s U70kg) and Ben fighting in the U100kg division switched to their country 18 months ago and since then had a revival. Starting with Ben Fletcher as one of the names for a European Games medal in Minsk is simply well deserved success.
With gold in Marrakech and three finals, four medals this season couldn’t start any better. He grew from average to a medal candidate.
The real top favourite U100kg though is without a doubt Varlam Liparteliani. He won the Grand Slam in Paris after last year’s world silver and has the age to periodize his schedule. European Championships have always been important for the kind Georgian and with eight European medals including three titles, he is still unstoppable.
In all seven World Tour events so far in 2019 six different winners. Starting in Tel Aviv Alexandre Iddir, Paris Varlam Liparteliani, Marrakech Benjamin Fletcher, Ekaterinburg Arman Adamian, Tbilisi Kazbek Zankishiev, Antalya Iddir’s second and Baku won by Michael Korrel. All men can win the title and exactly Iddir doesn’t fight in France. Like in many categories the French have many choices.
Just mentioning the winners is too easy in this class. It requires much more details to get to know the outsiders for Minsk. Home advantage for Mikita Svyrid and Daniel Mukete can make a difference. A rebound from an injury like Karl-Heinz Frey can make a difference. Pure talent of Belgian flagbearer Nikiforov or Portuguese pride Jorge Fonseca can score at any event. The experience of Cyrille Maret can bring him to gold and talented athletes like Zelym Kotsoiev, Zlatko Kumric or foxy oldies like Minaskin or Gasimov can bring anyone in trouble without a blink.
These European Games will give an awesome showcase how tough this division is. Still Europe needs to find the key how to be successful at the Korean and Japanese opposition. In 2016 gold, silver and bronze was for Europe, but since then only Liparteliani was able to the reach finals of two World Championships. Resisting Gu-Ham Cho or Aaron Wolf will be the mission for Europe and obviously world gold. The stepping stone is called Minsk.