Chris Skelley took home gold at the 2017 IBSA European Judo Championships on Saturday 5 August in Walsall.
The Hull judoka became GB’s first IBSA European Champion since 2013 when Sam Ingram won gold. Skelley had previously won bronze at the 2015 Europeans in Portugal and from the start he looked determined to win gold.
As the top seed at -100kg, the British judoka had a bye before facing Russia’s Anatolii Shevchenko. The Russian judoka was looking to attack at every opportunity while Skelley went hard in newaza. Eventually with less than a minute to go Skelley was able to secure the hold in newaza which forced Shevchenko to tap, to the delight of the home crowd.
Another Russian in Malik Kurbanov was Skelley’s opponent in the final. Kurbanov looked to use his movement against the bigger but Skelley looked more dangerous throughout and was close to scoring on a couple of occasions. With just under two minutes to go, Skelley was finally able to get himself in a strong position and he took his opportunity to throw Kurbanov for ippon.
Speaking later the 24 year old admitted that he had to keep his emotions in check after the final:
“Absolutely incredible. I was just saying it’s a mix of emotions. You want to cry and be happy at the same time but I’m just in shock. We put all the hard work in and effort. We travelled around the world to get good randori so it finally paid off on the mat.
Skelley also highlighted the level of preparation going into the competition, including training camps in Japan, Mongolia and Brazil this year.
“I’ve been here, there and everywhere. I’ve been to Japan, Mongolia. Mongolia was a really hard training camp. I went to Brazil for another hard training camp and then we came back for a few days and went out to Germany again.
“It’s just been travelling and competing and it’s all just paid off in the end, absolutely paid off and I’m so pleased.”
There were also fifth place finishes for Elliot Stewart (-90kg) and Jack Hodgson (+100kg). Stewart was making his debut at a VI Judo competition but he did not look out of place. The Birmingham judoka was the first fight of the day and he took on Paralympic silver medallist Oleksandr Nazarenko (UKR).
Despite his inexperience, he gave the Ukrainian a good fight before making a mistake which allowed Nazarenko the opportunity to secure osaekomi. Stewart still had a chance in the repechage and there he was too good for Daniel Goral (GER) as he showed some strong newaza to turn his opponent and win via osaekomi.
Turkey’s Ibrahim Bolukbasi was his opponent for bronze and former Olympic wrestler struggled to match Stewart’s range of judo. The British judoka was close to scoring on a number of occasions as he forced the Turk to pick up two shidos. However in trying to force a third he was countered and thrown for waza-ari.
Bolukbasi then did enough to hold out in the final 40 seconds despite Stewart’s best efforts. Speaking later on though the British fighter admitted he was happy with his debut performance.
“The experience I got today for being in VI for the first time today was really good to me. I improved from the first fight to the last and this is what I’m here for. This was the aim of this event but whenever you lose, it’s always a disappointment.”
Gainsborough heavyweight Hodgson made short work of his first opponent, beating Tulga Leonardo Demirel inside the first minute as he forced the German to tap out via strangle.
2015 World Games champion Gaidar Gaidarov (RUS) was next up in the semi-finals and Hodgson went ahead by waza-ari early on. However in the next exchange Hodgson looked to finish the contest and Gaidarov took advantage to level the scores before securing the win via osaekomi.
Abdula Kuramagomedov (RUS) lay in weight in the bronze medal match and he proved too strong for Hodgson on this occasion as he threw Hodgson for ippon as the British judoka went on the attack.
Tomorrow will see Great Britain taking part in the Team Event for the first time in a number of years where they will face Russia in the Men’s competition.
Competition starts at 1000 UK time tomorrow with live streaming via the British Judo Youtube Channel: http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/2017-ibsa-european-judo-championships-live-stream/
You can also follow the action through all of our British Judo social media accounts: