PREVIEW: ECCO Team Challenge, Tyumen 2014

Tyumen, Jan 24, 2014: The leading judoka from Europe and Asia are set to represent their continent at the ECCO Team Challenge, Tyumen 2014 on Saturday.

Europe and Asia, two of the powerhouse forces in judo, will go head-to-head in the unique Team Challenge amid the Siberian winter which snap has taken a foothold in Tyumen with the temperature dropping to -30 degrees on Friday.

Tyumen, which hosted the World Judo Masters 2013, has established itself as not only the epicentre of Russia’s renowned events but now has a permanent place on the World Judo Tour as the country’s annual Grand Slam moves from Moscow to Tyumen this year 12-13 July.

Saturday’s one-day team competition is the brainchild of the European Judo Union in conjunction with the International Judo Federation and is being hosted by the Government of Tyumen region, where each team will consist of 14 judoka (seven men and seven women). The competition consists of one round of 14 matches as contests will alternate from women and men in order of weight categories from the lightest to heaviest.

The European team will be managed by Russian Judo Federation General Team Manager, Ezio GAMBA while their opponents Asia will be led by Director of the Judo Union of Asia, Armen BAGDASAROV.

On the eve of the competition both continents presented their teams at the Tyumen Technopark in front of the media and distinguished guests.

Sergey KUSHKOV, President of the Tyumen Judo Region, said: “I am very pleased to see all my judo friends and welcome the judo family to Tyumen. Judo is growing here all the time due to the events we have hosted and the new Tyumen Olympic Judo Centre. We are proud to host this tournament and think it will be a great show. I wish everyone good luck and I hope you all enjoy it.”

Sergey SOLOVEYCHIK, EJU President and IJF Vice President Sergey Soloveychik, said: “On behalf of the IJF and EJU, I welcome everyone to Tyumen for the ECCO Team Challenge. Tyumen has been and continues to be an important place for the judo community to meet up for important competitions. I am grateful to the Tyumen Judo Region and the Governor for the support. We’re very pleased to have the best athletes in the world here including world and Olympic medallists.”

Vlad MARINESCU, IJF TV and Marketing Advisor, said: “Dear Presidents, coaches, officials and athletes, it is a big honour for me to be here and be back in the world of the judo family and to see judo continue to flourish. Such an event exposes judo heroes to the public who have embraced it. A SportAccord TV report showed that judo was the most watched sport at the World Combat Games last year in St. Petersburg. The judo stars here to compete this weekend are empowered by their federations and coaches and this event is a great showcase.

Armen BAGDASAROV said: “We have 14 athletes and individually they are all very good. They’re pleased to be taking part in the competition. The most important thing for me is the final result and not individual contests.”

Ezio GAMBA said: “All the time we try to do our best and the aim is to win. I am sure the event will be a good experience for everyone. It is a great honour for the athletes to take part in and it’s interesting that they all know their opponents ahead of the competition.”

World champion TAKATO and Olympic champion GALSTYAN

unnamed-3Olympic champion Arsen GALSTYAN (Europe), who fights world champion TAKATO Naohisa (Asia) for the first time, said: “I thank everyone for supporting the event, I’m looking forward to competing. I know I have a very serious and skilled opponent and it will be an intriguing contest for everyone to watch.”

TAKATO said: “I’ve watched many videos of GALSTYAN and it is a hard fight to predict but I’m sure I’ll be ok. I promise to show my best and produce some exciting judo.”



-48kg: Alesya Kuznetsova (Europe) v MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg (Asia)

Qingdao Grand Prix winner Alesya KUZNETSOVA and Mongolia’s first female world champion MUNKHBAT Urantsetseg will open the competition in a mouthwatering contest. Russian youngster KUZNETSOVA established herself on the World Judo Tour in 2013 while her Mongolian rival ruled the world last year and will take to the tatami as the favourite.

-52kg: Andreea CHITU (Europe) v HASHIMOTO Yuki (Asia)

Former European champion Andreea CHITU will go toe-to-toe with World Championships bronze medallist HASHIMOTO Yuki. Romanian CHITU took bronze at the Tokyo Grand Slam in December as HASHIMOTO took gold on home soil. The Asian judoka won their only previous meeting at the Paris Grand Slam last year

-57kg: Telma MONTEIRO (Europe) v DORJSUREN Sumiya (Asia)

Four-time senior European champion Telma MONTEIRO challenges World Judo Masters winner DORJSUREN Sumiya in a contest which matches one of Europe’s most consistent performers against one of the new breed of judoka in the category. Portuguese ace MONTEIRO defeated the 22-year-old Mongolian in their only meeting at the 2010 Moscow Grand Slam but DORJSUREN will be an entirely different proposition as one of the leading names in the Asian team.

-63kg: Anicka VAN EMDEN (Europe) v ABE Kana (Asia)

Former European Championships silver medallist Anicka VAN EMDEN defeated ABE Kana to win bronze at the World Championships last year. Dutch standout VAN EMDEN had lost their two previous meetings but showed her class and ability on the greatest stage in Rio. Japanese judoka ABE also shone in 2013 as she won the invite-only World Judo Masters and the Tokyo Grand Slam.

-70kg: Laura VARGAS-KOCH (Europe) v KIM Seong-Yeon (Asia)

World Championships silver medallist Laura VARGAS-KOCH and World Championships bronze medallist KIM Seong-Yeon will contest only the second meeting in their fast-rising careers. Germany’s VARGAS-KOCH, 23 and South Korea’s KIM, 22 are well matched and will be key members for their continent on Saturday.

-78kg: Abigel JOO (Europe) v JEONG Gyeong-Mi (Asia)

Two-time European champion Abigel JOO will renew acquaintances with Olympic bronze medallist JEONG Gyeong-Mi in Tyumen. Hungarian hotshot JOO has an unblemished record against South Korean’s JEONG having won their two previous contests and will be intent on making it a hat-trick to register a win for Europe.

+78kg: Lucija POLAVDER (Europe) v LEE Jung-Eun (Asia)

Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Lucija POLAVDER faces World Championships bronze medallist LEE Jung-Eun in what could be a pivotal contest in deciding which continent triumphs in Russia. Slovenian powerhouse POLAVDER is a seasoned veteran while South Korean’s LEE is entering the prime of her career.


-60kg: Arsen GALSTYAN (Europe) v TAKATO Naohisa (Asia)

Olympic champion Arsen GALSTYAN will face world champion TAKATO Naohisa for the first time in one of the most anticipated contests in the history of the -60kg category. Russian star GALSTYAN is set to return to full-time competition in 2014 after making a low-key return to action last year. Japan’s 20-year-old prodigy TAKATO went unbeaten on the World Judo Tour in 2013 as he won the Paris Grand Slam, World Judo Masters, World Championships and Tokyo Grand Slam.

-66kg: Georgii ZANTARAIA (Europe) v Azamat MUKANOV (Asia)

World championships bronze medallist Georgii ZANTARAIA will face World Championships silver medallist Azamat MUKANOV to decide which continent will be victorious in the -66kg category. Ukraine superstar ZANTARAIA is one of the most gifted judoka in the sport and will need to be at his mercurial best against Kazakhstan’s new star MUKANOV who claimed a surprise silver medal at Rio de Janeiro showpiece in 2013.

-73kg:Dex ELMONT (Europe) v KHASHBAATAR Tsagaanbaatar (Asia)

Two-time World Championships silver medallist will face former world champion KHASHBAATAR Tsagaanbaatar to determine which continent will win the -73kg honours. Dutch star ELMONT and Mongolian hero KHASHBAATAR are two of the most experienced and decorated judoka in the competition. ELMONT has the edge in their previous meetings as he leads 2-1 after winning the last contest between them in 2007.

-81kg: Avtandil TCHRIKISHVILI (Europe) v Yakhyo IMAMOV (Asia)

World Championships silver medallist Avtandil TCHRIKISHVILI will challenge Yakhyo IMAMOV as the -81kg stars in a contest which could set the tone for the fate of the category in 2014. Georgia’s word-renowned TCHRIKISHVILI, 22, avenged his surprise Paris Grand Slam final at the hands of Uzbekistan fighter IMAMOV by defeating him at the World Championships.

-90kg: Varlam LIPARTELIANI (Europe) v LEE Kyu-Won (Asia)

World Championships silver medallist Varlam LIPARTELIANI meets former world champion LEE Kyu-Won in the first senior contest between them. Georgia’s talismanic leader LIPARTELIANI defeated South Korea’s LEE on his way to winning gold at the Junior World Championships in 2008.

-100kg: Henk GROL (Europe) v Soyib KURBONOV (Asia)

Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Henk GROL has won honours on every stage in his career and will look for more success when he represents Europe against Tashkent Grand Prix winner Soyib KURBONOV. Dutch enforcer GROL defeated KURBANOV – who finished fifth at the World Championships in Rio – twice in 2013 as he proved too strong at the Paris Grand Slam and Samsun Grand Prix.

+100kg: Alexander MIKHAYLIN (Europe) v Iurii KRAKOVETSKII (Asia)

The final contest of the ECCO Team Challenge will be between Alexander MIKHAILIN and Iurii KRAKOVETSKII. Russia’s revered heavyweight MIKHAILIN, 34, will be well backed in front of his home crowd as Kyrgyzstan‎’s Moscow Grand Slam bronze medallist KRAKOVETSKII, 21, looks to secure the biggest scalp of his promising career. —- Pictures courtesy of EJU Media Team by Kostadin Andonov

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