ISRAELI JUDOKA Gefen Primo.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Israel’s Gefen Primo and Tal Flicker both claimed bronze medals in the opening day of the European Judo Championships at Tel Aviv’s Convention Center on Thursday, giving the hosts a dream start to the three-day event that is being held in the country for the first time.
Primo, who turned 18 just last month, scaled the podium on her debut at the senior continental championships, finishing in third place in the women’s under-52kg weight-class.
“I wanted to win the gold, but bronze is also good. I’m so happy,” said Primo, who won the gold medal at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Hungary last summer. “It was disappointing to lose in the quarterfinals, but I understood that I needed to either give my all to take the bronze or would end up empty handed.
“My dream is to win an Olympic medal, and of the correct color,” she added.
Flicker became just the seventh Israeli to scale the podium at the World Judo Championships last year and picked up his first medal at the Europeans on Thursday, further strengthening his status as one of Israel’s early medal favorites for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I was a little nervous ahead of the championships because they are being held in Israel, but as soon as I heard the fans that gave me a big boost,” noted Flicker.
“It is the best feeling in the world to win in front of your home fans.
“Everyone knows what medal I’m missing now. I’ll do everything to win an Olympic medal,” he added.
There were also several disappointing results for the Israeli representatives on Thursday.
Timna Nelson Levy, a bronze medalist from two years ago, was knocked out already in the second round of the under-57kg event, losing to Austrian Sabrina Filzmoser.
Shira Rishony, who represented Israel at Rio 2016, received a bye into the second round of the under-48kg event and was on course to advance before suffering an ippon, judo’s version of a knockout, in the last second of her bout with Marusa Stangar of Slovenia.
Baruch Shmailov, the reigning champion in the under-66kg contest at the under-23 European Championships, saw his day end with a second-round defeat to Orkhan Safarov of Azerbaijan.
In the same weight-class, Flicker began his day with victories over Nathan Burns of Ireland and Vadim Bunescu of Moldova before being beaten by last year’s silver medalist, Adrian Gomboc of Slovenia, in the quarterfinals.
Flicker bounced back in the repechage, first overcoming Joao Crisostomo of Portugal and then beating Marko Gusic of Montenegro in the battle for the bronze with an ippon.
Primo also came through the repechage to reach the podium.
She beat Sofia Asvesta of Cyprus and Charline Van Snick of Belgium before falling to Evelyne Tschopp of Switzerland in the quarters.
The teenager bounced back with triumphs over Anja Stangar of Slovenia and Irem Korkmaz of Turkey to the delight of the local fans.
The championships continue over the weekend, with Sagi Muki, a European Champion from 2015, to take part in the under-81kg competition on Friday and Olympic bronze medalist Ori Sasson to participate in the over-100kg event on Saturday.