Neil MacDonald will leave Malaga with a silver medal after a fine day’s judo at the 2016 Junior European Judo Championships on Friday 16 September.
MacDonald had come fifth in last year’s Junior Europeans and he showed his class in the -60kg category. The British judoka started the day with a very controlled performance against Matthijs Van Harten (NED) with a single yuko proving more than enough to see him through.
His quarter-final saw him come up against a dangerous German opponent Moritz Plafky and after a slow start MacDonald dominated the contest, throwing for waza-ari before showing good contest management to see out the rest of the match.
However the Glasgow-born fighter, who trains at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall, saved his best performance for the semi-final with France’s Romaric Wend-Yam Bouda. The British judoka was into his stride from the start and put in a number of strong attacks before a lovely bit of ashi-waza gave MacDonald the contest ending ippon.
Tornike Tsjakadoea (NED) stood in his way for gold and the Dutch judoka proved too strong as he forced MacDonald to pick up a shido before countering an attempted attack by the British judoka to take the contest.
There was also a fifth place finish for Acelya Toprak who was making her Junior European Championships debut after an impressive first year at Junior level.
Toprak started her day with typically aggressive performances against Sakina Zayirova (AZE) and Ilayda Seyis (TUR) in both cases displaying her strong throwing ability as well as her improving newaza winning the first by osaekomi and the second by juji-gatame.
In her quarter-final she lost by a single yuko to 2015 Junior World bronze medallist Andreja Leski (SLO) before recovering well for the repechage final against Iva Oberan (CRO) as she twice threw her Croatian opponent, the second time for ippon.
Defending champion Stefania Adelina Dobre (ROU) would be her opponent for bronze and the Romanian showed her experience in a very tactical performance. Dobre went ahead by yuko in the opening minute and after that allowed Toprak to do most of the attacking while doing enough to stay on the ref’s good side.
A second yuko score proved more decisive as, despite forcing three shidos, the British judoka wasn’t able to get a score back.
Chelsie Giles (-52kg) and Dan Powell (-73kg) both finished in seventh while Lele Nairne (-57kg) and Eric Ham (-73kg) went out in the rounds of 16 and 32 respectively.
Giles pulled back a waza-ari score in the final minute of her opening contest against Francesca Giorda (ITA). In her quarter-final she took an early yuko lead against Mariam Janashvili (GEO) before the Georgian’s power told as she threw Giles for ippon in the next exchange.
Her repechage final was a tactical contest and France’s Astride Gneto did enough to win as she forced two shidos on the British judoka.
Powell made a solid start as a single yuko was enough to give him the win over Slovenia’s Luka Harpf before showing his fitness was up to scratch in the last 16 contest with Hievorh Manukian (UKR) as he weathered the early storm from the Ukrainian before two good drop attacks saw him go ahead by yuko and waza-ari.
Hidayat Heydarov (AZE) was too good in the quarter-final as he threw Powell for waza-ari before strong groundwork saw him secure the hold down. The repechage final with Christopher Wagner (AUT) followed a similar pattern as the Austrian went ahead by waza-ari before he forced the British fighter to tap out on the ground.
Four more British judoka will be in action on Saturday 17 in Lubjana Piovesana (-63kg), Michelle Boyle (+78kg), Stuart McWatt (-81kg) and Rhys Thompson (-100kg). Competition starts at 0900 UK time and you can follow the action via EJU.net, ippon.org and the British Judo Live Blog