For the first time in 15 years a Turkish man won the European title. Mikhail Ozerler captured the European Games gold medal in the final against his Israelian opponent Li Kochman. Ozerler previously named Mihael Zgank (SLO), didn’t get the title for free. He was the last man standing in a crazy day full of surprises.
Ozerler didn’t start as the favourite, but slowly moved forward in a challenging pool where he beat Jesper Smink (NED) in the golden score. 2017 European Champion Aleksandar Kukolj followed in his second contest in a minute. Mammadali Mehdiyev, the winner of the Grand Slam in Düsseldorf was defeated after three minutes which was a sign that everything was possible. In the semi final Ozerler defeated Khusen Khalmurzaev, the brother of the Olympic Champion U81kg in a tough battle. The contest took more than eight minutes where Ozerler scored ippon. In the final Ozerler defeated Li Kochman who survived a pool with Toth and Trippel. Today was a total weird situation in this U90kg class with lots of surprises.
World medallists like 2018 World Champion Nikoloz Sherazadishvili (ESP) lost against Swiss Ciril Grossklaus. 2017 World Champion Nemanja Majdov lost to Frazer Chamberlain (GBR) as biggest shocks.
Mammadali Mehdiyev took a bronze medal after his contest against Dutchman Noël van ‘t End who won his pool with Majdov and Clerget. Khusen Khalmurzaev won the second bronze when he overcame Frazer Chamberlain who had lost to Van ‘t End in the quarter final.
Selim Tataroglu was the last Turkish man to win the European title. So the Federation gets in which they invested, one year for the Games. The previous champion for Turkey was Kayra Sayit, who was the former French fighter Ketty Mathe. It’s a normal process in a professional sport where Turkey maybe one of the frontrunners, but we just don’t realise.
Ozerler was ecstatic: "I feel incredible. It was a perfect day for me. When I came to the warm-up area in the morning I felt goosebumps all over my body and I knew this was going to be my day. "
How was your preparation to these Games?
"Between the Grand Prix in Antalya and the European championships, we had the Grand Slam Baku and I lost in the second round there, so I was disappointed. I know that I am in good shape. So I pushed myself in the last weeks and prepared well, also mentally. It turned out to be great for me."
It was a surprising final against Kochman
Ozerler: “In the medal matches athletes are always equal and only the little details make the difference in the end. He obviously started better. I knew I had to push more and every minute I pushed myself more. Sometimes you have to play smart and use the shidos to take the gold medal.”
You didn’t get it easily with a semi-final of eight minutes
Ozerler: "Me and Khusen have a long journey behind us. We started fighting when we were juniors. I knew it was going to be a tough match even though he was tired from his previous matches. During the match I started feeling stronger and I felt that he was losing his stamina a little bit. I knew this was my chance."
Did you switch to Turkey contribute in the end?
Ozerler: "In one way I became a man because I went away from my parents. I had to spend time alone and face some things alone in my life. And I really grew as a person."