The double world champion, who hasn't won a title in over a year, pulled out of the 2021 European judo championships final in Lisbon.·Daria Bilodid missed the chance to claim her third European judo title after withdrawing from the U48kg gold medal final in Lisbon, Portugal.
The 20-year-old second seed appeared to suffer an arm injury while lifting her opponent Irina Dolgova during their semi-final on Friday.
"A few seconds before the end of the time I scored ippon, then before the umpire assigned the point my opponent made a move that injured my elbow," Bilodid said after the medal ceremony.
"I decided along with my parents to not fight in the final, because now the most important thing is to keep healthy and to prepare for the next competitions. Now health is my priority."
The injury prevented the Ukrainian from facing Kosovan world number one Distria Krasniqi, in what was the most anticipated match of the day.
On her way to the final, Bilodid saw off Italy's Francesca Milani, Slovenia's Marusa Stangar and two-time European silver medallist Dolgova.
The double Olympic champion was looking to win her first title since the Paris Grand Slam in February 2020.
Since judo competitions resumed after a break for the COVID-19 pandemic, Bilodid - who missed the 2020 European Championships in Prague for illness - has collected two bronze medals (one in the higher U52kg class in Budapest) and one silver, in February in Tel Aviv.
"It was a difficult year after the pandemic, it was difficult to understand that for one more year we must be ready, we must train hard," she said.
"For me this year has been more difficult, I'm still without a gold medal in this year and it's difficult for me, but today I felt very good. For me today it wasn't important to have gold, but it was important to see that I'm in good shape, that I'm strong and I can win."
Bilodid, who won 12 of the 13 events she took part in from November 2017 until February 2020, explained why she's been struggling so far.
"Everything's changed. We don't have the same preparation as before, we don't have the same international training camps, we have different rules, now we have many COVID tests in every competition, we can't go out from our hotel...so it's very hard mentally to mentally understand that the world has changed. But now it's better and I hope that everything will be like it was before."
Bilodid hasn't decided what tournaments she will enter before the Olympic judo competition starts on July 24 at the Budokan in Tokyo.
She is expected to face stiff competition in a category that includes in-form Krasniqi, France's 2020 European champion Shirine Boukli and Japan's 2017 world champion Tonaki Funa.