Ashley McKenzie won bronze for GB Judo on first day of competition at the 2018 European Judo Championships on Thursday 26 April.
This was McKenzie’s second European Judo Championship medal following bronze in 2013.
The two-time Olympian went in as third seed following a run of consistent performances including bronze at the Paris Grand Slam earlier this year.
The British judoka had a bye into the second round where he took on Tornike Tsjakadoea (NED). In a very tactical fight that went into golden score it was McKenzie’s greater experience and attacking ability that told as the Dutch judoka picked up three shidos.
The two-time Olympian faced Russia’s Islam Yashuev in the quarter-finals and once again it looked the British fighter’s experience and attack rate would be key as both men picked up two shidos in regular time.
With not long left in the contest Yashuev was awarded a third shido by the referee but it was taken off by the Commission which gave the Russian a lifeline.
Yashuev upped his game as a result and in golden score McKenzie picked up a third shido for a false attack.
This dropped the British fighter into the repechage final where he faced Csaba Szabo (HUN). The Hungary was never allowed to settle before being thrown for ippon by kata-guruma.
In the bronze medal contest McKenzie took on Ukraine’s Artem Lesyuk. The younger judoka was having a day to remember, including a win over current Olympic champion Beslan Mudranov (RUS) in the quarter-finals.
McKenzie made a terrific start as he threw Lesyuk for waza-ari and continued to manage the contest well from there.
Lesyuk would not go away and managed to level things up in the final minute before securing osaekomi. McKenzie showed terrific determination though and wrestled his way out of the hold down.
With just 15 seconds to go McKenzie finished the contest as she countered Lesyuk’s attempted drop attack, to the delight of the GB support in the crowd.
Acelya Toprak put in a very solid performance on her Senior Europeans debut in Israel. The 19 year old was going in current Junior European silver medallist but was fighting in her biggest competition to date.
The British judoka took on Slovakia’s Viktori Majorosova in the first round at -57kg and soon found herself a waza-ari down after a circumspect start.
However, the British judoka grew into the contest and she forced her opponent to pick up two shidos going into the final minute.
With just under 30 seconds to go Toprak was able to throw Majorosova for waza-ari which took the contest into golden score.
23 seconds into the golden score period Toprak took advantage of a weak attack by the Slovakian to counter for a second waza-ari score using nice te-waza.
This took Toprak into the second round where she faced WRL 5 Nora Gjakova (KOS). The Kosovan judoka is also a three-time European bronze medallist and is the highest ranked judoka Toprak has fought in competition.
The British judoka made a solid start as she more than held her own in the standing exchanges. However, with just over two minutes to go Gjakova managed to catch Toprak with some good ashi-waza and was able to turn the British judoka into osaekomi to complete the win.
Nekoda Smythe-Davis went into the Europeans as the top seed at -57kg. The Ealing judoka had a bye into the second round where she faced French judoka Sarah Leonie Cysique.
Leonie Cysique had given Smythe-Davis a tough fight at the Dusseldorf Grand Slam and she made life difficult for the British fighter in Tel Aviv.
Both judoka picked up a shido going into the final minute and with 30 seconds left Leonie Cysique took advantage of a mistake by the British fighter to throw her for waza-ari.
The French judoka then spotted an opportunity in newaza to apply a strangle and forced Smythe-Davis to tap.
At -48kg, Kim Renicks was making her first appearance at a European Judo Championships since 2013.
She took on Catarina Costa (POR) in the first round with the Portuguese judoka in good form having won the Antalya Grand Prix this month.
Costa made the faster start, catching Renicks in the opening exchange for a waza-ari score. The British judoka looked to get back into the contest but Costa finished the fight by waza-ari awasete ippon as she threw her opponent for a second time.
Friday 27 April will see five British judoka in action as Lucy Renshall (-63kg), Alice Schlesinger (-63kg), Sally Conway (-70kg), Gemma Howell (-70kg) and Stuart McWatt (-81kg) look to secure a medal rostrum finish.
Competition will start an hour earlier at 0900 UK time with a 1400 UK time start for the final block.
Watch live at eju.net and follow @BritishJudo on Twitter for live updates.