Who will follow up judo's Diamonds in Porec?
Porec is a familiar town when it comes to hosting Europe’s youth. From 23 June the top class European talents will be fighting for the Cadet European titles. Porec continues a good tradition and was able to organize European Championships for judoka’s U20 years in 2012 and 2020, combined with the European U23 Championships in a time of COVID-19. Now the scene is back for some their top event of the year.
Obviously the medallists will like also appear at the World Championships in Sarajevo in August, another city that has a reputation in organizing youth Championships. Porec is a popular summer resort on the coast of the Istrian Peninsula in western Croatia. The coastline north and south of town draws visitors with camping areas, marinas and beaches with water sports. Certainly tempting and challenging to enjoy too much in advance of the Championships.
Host Croatia doesn’t have a generation compared to that in 2012 with (current senior World Champion) Barbara Matic, her sister Brigita, Ivana Sutalo who all medalled. Since then the Croatians exploded in success with exactly that generation. European Junior titles followed, and even World titles for both Matic sisters. Even a newer generation came up with Karla Prodan, Ana Viktorija Puljiz, Lara Cvjetko, Helena Vukovic and Katarina Kristo. Mainly young women who celebrated lots of European and World victories. Now these athletes are the stormtroopers in the IJF World Tour with an unmatched success last year in Budapest when Barbara Matic captured the world title.
Now it’s time to reset and see if a new generation can stand up. The Croatians aren’t that dominant in the youth. Now it’s tine for other countries that you might not have expected a few years ago: Sweden, Serbia, Ukraine and what to say about Cyprus. Of course more traditional judo countries still have a few medal candidates like France, Hungary, Netherlands and the amazing team of Italy that continues to deliver talent at a young age.
Some countries have medal candidate in each age class like France and Italy, but usually you see a trend that the real top athletes wake up a bit later, not yet a cadet level. There are some exceptions like Odette Giuffrida, Natalia Kuziutina, Khasan Khalmurzaev and of course Daria Bilodid. They all shone at an early age and took Olympic medals at a later age. Can you imagine that a Cadet European Champion became Olympic Champion just four years later? Lasha Bekauri is his name. So we wonder who is the next super talent that may appear on the podium in Los Angeles, or might even compete in Paris in 2024. Well, Romane Dicko, Madina Taimazova and Daria Bilodid even took medals at the Olympics last year and were European Champion just five years ago. Everything is possible at a young age.
The current talents of Europe are Michela Terranova and Savita Russo (ITA), Tara Babulfath (SWE), Patricia Tomankova (CZE), Sebestyen Kollar (HUN), Thomas Puchly and Doria Boursas (FRA), Joshua de Lange and Vera Wandel (NED) and Cyprus’ diamond Giannis Antoniou.
In one week we will see who will flourish in Porec and who are the candidates to follow up the success of Barbara Matic, Daria Bilodid or Lasha Bekauri.