Portugal has had an amazing start of the European Championships in Lisbon. The gold medal by Telma Monteiro was the best wish the organisation could make and Monteiro once more realized to become the best of Europe. In the final she defeated Slovenia’s Kaja Kajzer in the category U57kg.
Monteiro though perhaps had its key contest in the semi final against title favourite Nora Gjakova from Kosovo. The Portuguese veteran and Rio’s bronze medallist was the winner of her pool by defeating Belgian Mina Libeer who also had a great day. Monteiro’s first fight was against 40 year old Sabrina Filzmoser who was close to a score against Monteiro but her wazari was waved away and finally Filzmoser bowed in the four minutes regular time. Filzmoser had her 24th European Championships in which she took 9 Championships medals.
The champion herself is a queen in collecting medals at Europeans as well. With her sixth European gold medals she gave Portugal its dreamstart at what is considered as her last European Championship. Monteiro claimed 15 medals at European level including the silver of last year in Prague which says that Monteiro still counts and might be able to reach the final block on the third day of the Olympic Games in about 100 days.
Despite the lack of a home crowd the celebrations where amazing with her team after such dream day.
Monteiro: "It was an emotional day. When I stepped on the mat I knew I could do something special today and that I could win. The semi final I knew it was going to be hard but I believed in myself, although I couldn’t train for two weeks due to shoulder injury. My family was here in Lisbon and I wanted them to celebrate with me. On the mat you have to stay cool but after you win you can explode and let my emotions free. After that I get quiet again. Now I will have to enjoy what I accomplish. Not always you can show what you want on the mat. But I am always motivated. When I loose, I can analyse. But when I win I am more happy. I don’t know if it was the last medal, it is certainly not my last competition, but now I will celebrate and tomorrow I will think about the next medal."
The fight for bronze in the category U57kg between Nora Gjakova of Kosovo and Eteri Liparteliani was won by Gjakova as expected despite the good form of Liparteliani. Sarah Cysique of France and Belgian’s Mina Libeer fought for the second bronze which was taken by Cysique who also developed rapidly, but the French talent took away the bronze in the Lisbon Arena.
In fact this category wasn’t very surprising despite the final spot for Kajzer who’s star is rising. Se overcame Flaka Loxha, the second woman from Kosovo in the first round. She progressed through the quarter finals via a victory over Anna Kuczera of Poland. Israel’s Timna Nelson Levy was set aside by Kajzer before she reached the final against world class player Cysique giving Kajzer the confidence she will need to stunt in Tokyo at the Olympic Games.
Telma Monteiro: “It was a very intense day, I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but this morning when I got here, I felt like I was going to make history. I am the most medaled judoka at Europeans, it is my sixth European title and my 15th medal. My gift is to make things look easy, but I knew the test was going to be very tough physically. I hurt my shoulder and had to change my preparation, but my mentality is very strong. It was extremely difficult and I have to give credit to my opponents, but they are what make me stronger. After not being able to be here at the 2008 European, I always believed that this year I could be champion at home and make my dream come true, it was a perfect day! I am the most decorated medalist at the European championships, now I leave the record to anyone who wants to beat it. I am vintage, for me I am the 18-year-old Telma who has now started competing in the seniors.”