Acelya Toprak’s silver medal was the standout result for GB Judo on day one of the 2017 Junior European Championships in Maribor, Slovenia on Friday 15 September.
The Metro Judo Club judoka had finished fifth at last year’s Championships and was going into the competition as one of the top seeds at -57kg.
She backed up that with a strong set of performances that tested her fitness and contest management. Home judoka Kaja Kajzer (SLO) was first up and Toprak showed her patience against the fast starting Slovenian.
The British judoka threw Kajzer for waza-ari and, despite picking up a couple of shidos, she was able to see out the contest.
Kosovo’s Flaka Loxha was next up and Toprak proved too strong as she threw Loxha for waza-ari before transitioning into newaza. Toprak was able to apply the strangle and forced Loxha to tap.
In the quarter-finals Toprak found herself two shidos down early on against Jorien Visser (NED). This forced the British judoka to go on the offensive and she showed great stamina as she continually forced the Dutch judoka back.
She forced Visser to pick up two shidos as the contest went into golden score. There she continued to attack and showed good contest management as the referee was forced to award a third and final shido against Visser.
Her semi-final with Sarah Leonie Cysique (FRA) was another tactical affair with the British going ahead early on by waza-ari. From there she once again showed her ability to manage a contest as she held off a number of strong attacks by Cysique to book a place in the final.
Dutch judoka Larissa Van Krevel had been in good form all day, scoring multiple times in each contest on her way to the final. Toprak was close to scoring on a couple of occasions early on in the contest but found herself a waza-ari down with two minutes to go.
In her attempt to get a score back, Toprak was almost countered by Van Krevel who transitioned newaza and applied the strangle which forced the British judoka to tap.
Speaking after receiving her medal, Toprak said:
“I fought well today on my way to the final but in the final the fight didn’t go to plan and I was caught with a strangle.
“I have progressed from a 5th place last year to a silver this year, so next year I will be aiming for gold.
“I am really looking forward to getting behind the rest of the team tomorrow and fighting in the team event on Sunday.”
GB Elite Performance Coach Academy Programme Denny Roberts was pleased to see Toprak’s progression in training come out in competition:
“It was a very good and high level of performance from Acelya today. Great to see her trying the judo she has been working on back at Centre of Excellence and I’m very proud of her progress over the last year.”
There was also a fifth place for Neil MacDonald at -60kg and a seventh for Dan Powell at -73kg. MacDonald had won silver at last year’s Junior Europeans and he made a strong start as he threw dangerous Italian Angelo Pantano for ippon.
He followed that up with a come from behind victory against Thomas Macrez (FRA) in the quarter-finals. Macrez took the lead early on, throwing MacDonald for waza-ari.
The British judoka came right back though and levelled the contest with a waza-ari score before a nice piece of ashi-waza threw Macrez for ippon.
Moving into the semi-finals MacDonald took on Belgium’s Jorre Verstraeten. It proved to be an exciting contest with both judoka going close to scoring on multiple occasions.
The contest went into golden score and with little under six minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, Verstraeten was able to take the decisive waza-ari score.
MacDonald’s bronze medal contest against Naoufal Ez Zerrad (BEL) was another close contest with neither judoka able to get a score as it went into golden score. In the end though it was Ez Zerrad who took the win as he rolled MacDonald for waza-ari.
Wolverhampton judoka Powell made an impressive start at -73kg as he beat second seed Alexandr Kolesnik (RUS). All of Powell’s scores came in the second half of the fight as his superior fitness shone through.
Powell took the lead by waza-ari before doubling it in the final 30 seconds of the contest. Powell transitioned into osaekomi but Kolesnik tapped early having injured his leg.
The British judoka backed this up against Finland’s Aku Laakkonen, transitioning superbly into newaza off an attempted attack by the Finnish judoka. Laakkonen was unable to hold out and was forced to tap.
Powerful Georgian Tato Grigalashvili was next up in the quarter-finals and he proved too good for Powell, throwing him for ippon with little over a minute left in the contest.
Dropping into the repechage final Powell appeared to make the perfect start as he almost threw David Gamosov (RUS) for ippon. The Russian did well to spin out of the attack and came straight back in the next exchange to throw the British judoka for ippon.
There were round of 16 exits for Chelsie Giles (-52kg), Olivia Piechota (-52kg) and Eric Ham (-73kg). Giles lost out to Gefen Primo (ISR) as she conceded a late waza-ari score and was unable to get it back.
Piechota did well to comeback from behind in her first round contest with Aleksandra Kaleta (POL). The Polish judoka went ahead by waza-ari but Piechota was able to level the scores before finish the contest by ippon via osaekomi.
Top seed Myriam Blavier (BEL) was next up and the Belgian judoka scored straight away, throwing Piechota for waza-ari. The British judoka grew into the contest however and was close to scoring twice in newaza but Blavier did enough to see out the contest.
Eric Ham won a tactical opening contest as he forced Giovanni Esposito (ITA) to pick up three shidos for variety of offences. Ham then gave Ukrainian fourth seed Hievorh Manukian a good contest with the British judoka close to scoring in both tachiwaza and newaza.
Manukian though took an opportunity in newaza to apply juji-gatame and forced Ham to tap.
Tomorrow (Saturday 16 September) is the turn of the middle and heavyweight judoka to take to the mat. Lubjana Piovesana (-63kg), Shelley Ludford (-70kg), James Hayes (-81kg), Jamal Petgrave (-90kg) and Wesley Greenidge (+100kg).
Competition starts at 0900 (9:00am) UK Time with live coverage via eju.net and britishjudo.org.uk. Follow @BritishJudo on Twitter for all the build-up and live updates throughout the day.