For the first time in 43 years Cadet European Championships return in Poland. Its capital Poland is host of the top talents in the cadet age group under 18 years. This year is highly important with the European Youth Festival in July in Baku and the World Championships in Almaty, Kazachstan. For some these European Championships are an important stepping stone to world fame, for some the goal to participate.
One thing is for sure, the Polish organization will guarantee a good championships. They are an experienced host with European Championships organized for cadets, juniors and in 2014 U23. This was the build up for the Senior Europeans in 2017 where cadet Daria Bilodid won the European senior title. Last week she prolonged her title in Minsk.
Time to analyse some of the cadets that have practiced at the ten Cadet European Cups so far this season. From those events a number of top talents came up and the question is, can they hold on to their form in Warsaw and beyond.
Russia was by far the most dominating nation with 107 medals and 33 titles. Surprisingly Turkey is second with 19 gold medals followed by Italy with 15. Obviously all three nations organise a European Cup, so that have influenced the nation tally.
Strong events in Teplice, Zagreb and Berlin
On individual level a few cadets caught our attention. Heavyweight Hilal Ozturk (TUR) won four European Cups in Antalya, Teplice, Berlin and Cluj. Teplice was probably the toughest of all events with 771 participants, more than any of the ten events. The category U60kg had even 82 boys in Teplice. Also Zagreb was extremely tough with 721 young athletes and the category U73kg had 87 boys, can you imagine if you win: Adam Kopeczky won that battle and the Czech talent also caught gold in Berlin and Coimbra and two bronze medals.
Romanian talent Alex Cret won gold in Zagreb, Teplice, Berlin and Cluj, all U90kg and he is the favourite for the European title. Portuguese Raquel Brito won five medals in total and four of them gold. She was the most successful cadets so far during this pre-season. She lost though in Coimbra of Assunta Scutto, and we think this was actually a very welcome loss. It will give her the sharpness she will need in Warsaw. She is coached by Pedro Dias, a super talent coach who won European U23 bronze and senior bronze himself when he was a fighter for Portugal. The experience of former top athletes is essential and the increase for former top athletes who return as a coach is significant for the serious rise of the athletes. Daria Bilodid showed us that a fast transition to junior and even senior level is possible in some categories. The current cadets will already look forward to the race for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris where some may participate.
Women U70kg story
Every weight category will have its own story. Spain have a few potential medallists as also in the U70kg category Ai Tsunoda (familiar name) is an outsider. She is not ranked high but will be heading the gold with young women as the German Cadet Champion Elisabeth Pflugbeil, or Polish home fighter Katarzyna Sobierajska and last but not least World number one Yael van Heemst of the Netherlands. The young Dutch won the title in Teplice and Coimbra and is selected for the Europeans, EYOF and World Championships this year. She trains eight times per week and her family makes serious investments for travelling, judo gear, sports ware and fitness. No wonder that judo is not a sport for everyone. Top sports requires top talent but also the perfect environment and support. Pedro Dias knows, all athletes and parents know and hope to get a motivating medal this weekend and move on to get closer to the top for a long career.
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