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The legend of Polish judo has put the finishing touches to everything. The team competition at the European Games is the best promotion of the discipline.

The most important judo competition of 2023 was held in Krynica. Twenty-two teams competed against each other at the team competition held as part of the European Games, combined with the championships of the old continent. There was no shortage of surprises, exciting fights and the lively support of the fans, who filled the stands to the brim during the Poles’ fights.

Although it started … in an unusual way.Laszlo Toth, president of the European Judo Union, welcomed the athletes, judges, activists, fans and journalists by saying that he was outraged that the competition was not taking place in Krakow, but in Krynica.That was until he arrived in the charming town – the host of the Games.

We did not understand why the European Games in team judo should be held in Krynica and not Krakow.Now I can say that we are grateful for this decision,” said Toth.

Polish judo legend honoured

And no wonder, because Wiesław Błach was responsible for organising the event, along with the Games.He is a legend of Polish judo. One of the few Poles who hold the seventh dan. This is an honourable distinction awarded for his contribution to the development of the discipline. In fact, after the competition, the EJU awarded Błach with The best of the best award.

On the occasion of these Games, I was awarded the EJU award for the personality of our discipline. This is probably the biggest award I have received in my life,” said Blach, not hiding his emotion.

The distinguished judoka was in charge of the sporting part of the event and did not disappoint. The national teams came to the competition in the strongest possible line-ups. The best could count on an Olympic qualification.

Great success for Georgia

The Georgians won, beating the Germans 4:1 in the final match. One of Germany’s biggest judo stars, Eduard Trippel, who had already fought at the European Games in Minsk, did not help.

-I love the team competition, it allows us to train with athletes in higher weight categories and improve our skills. I think it increases the level of the whole team. We couldn’t beat the Georgians, who undoubtedly had the best form throughout the competition. I won’t say that the silver medal of the European Games satisfies me, but I am happy to finish on the podium,” said Trippel.

The Poles dropped out in the 1/16. They were defeated by the Hungarian national team, which after the final repechage did not guarantee its participation in the bronze match. Despite this, no fight provided as much excitement as the duel of Julia Kowalczyk. The young Pole fought for 12 minutes, the equivalent of three full bouts. She lacked some strength, but as long as she had it, she dominated and carried out more offensive actions. Unluckily for her, the Hungarian defended herself perfectly.

Towards the end I looked at my watch and thought I was starting my third fight in a row. I don’t know if I have ever been given the opportunity to duel for so long. I felt the pressure because I knew that only a win would give us a chance of a medal. I lost because I ran out of strength at the end,” concluded Kowalczyk.

The Polish national team was applauded by fans and the youngest judokas from the region. One of the sectors was prepared especially for the schools and academies, who coloured the event with their lively cheering. The organisers also deserve a mention. All the more so as we hear from the EJU that everything was buttoned up to the last button. The hall operators did not have an easy task. After the semi-finals, they only had a few dozen minutes to prepare the mats before the medal bouts. They made it, and the duels between France and the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy, as well as the most important gold medal match between Georgia and Germany, were watched from every sector. It was a true celebration of judo at the European Games.