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120305 - Malta International Judo Open

Achievement for both Athletes and Officials of the Malta Judo Federation

Every year since 1984, around March or April, the Malta Judo Federation hosts the Malta International Judo Open. The 28th edition welcomed delegates and referees from Finland, Great Britain, Italy (and Sicily), Russia, Turkey and New Zealand. Maestro Massimo Sulli, International referee and one of the 9 European referees selected for the Olympic Games, accepted the invitation of the federation and supervised the refereeing at this event.

The program started off with a demonstration of the young Judo dragons. Coordinated by Tiziana Apap, the 60 young dragons were supervised by Byron Baron, Eileen Portelli and Tano Scerri, the kids participated in several Judo games, which help in their motor skills and coordination. As it is now traditional, all the dragons are winners and their trophy is presented to them on the highest podium. The next session was dedicated to the Espoir (12 to 14 years old) and the Cadet Judoka. Mr. Envic Galea, President and the Sports Director, Mr. Alex Bezzina, accompanied by the KMS CEO Mr. Gino Schiavone, observed the new talents of Maltese Judo. This event was definitely a good omen for Maltese Judo as several talents were noticed. It was then time for the main event of the Championships – the Senior International Event. 15 Maltese Judoka took the opportunity of competing with international judoka without leaving our shores.

The male star of the tournament was without doubt Jeremy Saywell. He contested the senior -66kgs. His first round was bye. In his second round, he encountered Mattia Galbiati. Galbiati is coached by Diego Brambilla (world bronze medal) and he is practically a professional judoka since he trains at the Centro Sportivo of the Forestale in Italy. Though Saywell is still a Junior, both Saywell and Galbiati were the favourites of the category. They were unfortunately drawn in the same pool. The contest was well balanced, and none of them managed to throw each other, but Galbiati used his experience to beat our young Judoka in osaekomi (hold down). Jeremy was recovered in repechage and started his mission for bronze medal. He first eliminated Elrick Starbuck from the British Judo Council with his kosotogari, then Alex Jones (selected for the British squad in 2010) from the Southampton Delegation with his famous Kataguruma. The bronze medal fight was against Laurence Holden from the British Judo Council. Jeremy countered Holden for Ippon and won his bronze medal. Isaac Bezzina also gave a good performance in the -90kgs senior. He won his bronze medal by eliminating Lance Wicks from New Zealand (here as part of the Southampton delegation), then Valerio Pallotta from the Lazio regional team. The -73kgs was the biggest category and also that contested by most Maltese judoka. Ranier Bonnici, Matthew Azzopardi and Antonio Greco contested this category but they were all very unlucky with the draw. Antonio immediately found Mario Strazzeri, 5th place at the European Cadet Championships held in Malta in 2007, who eventually won the category. Ranier was drawn against our own coach, Lamberto Raffi’s son, William Raffi, who eventually won the bronze medal after giving a very good performance on the mat. Matthew was drawn against the other bronze medallist, Stefano LaRosa. In the -81kgs category, the Maltese contestant was Francesco Aufieri, who though still first year cadet, was not intimidated and used this event to continue gathering his experience in Judo and adding to the Maltese medal tally with a bronze medal. Luca Montebello took the opportunity of an international event in Malta, and contested the -100kgs category to earn the invaluable experience which can only be achieved through on the mat performances. This category was won by Conor Murphy from the Southampton delegation. Another favourite from this category, who then won the Open +73kgs category, was the young Judoka from San Marino Karim Gharbi.

In the female category, all eyes were on Marcon Bezzina. Marcon’s category, though only consisting of 5 judoka, was probably one of the strongest categories. The first fight in the 63kgs was between the 2 favourites of the category: our Marcon Bezzina and Davis Nekoda from Ealing Judo Club. Davis has a collection of podiums in British National Championships and a bronze in the Junior EJU European Cup in Portugal. Marcon managed to secure a yuko against Davis, however later on the contest, Davis scored a yuko as well. The girls went into golden score and towards the end of the match, Davis attacked again and beat Marcon by Ippon. It was then the turn of Jordan Doherty, a strong British Judoka from Oxford University who has several medals from British National Championships. Her father, Chris, was also a medalist in the Malta Open some years ago. In this contest, Marcon did not waste any time and immediately shot an uchimata which she concluded in Ippon. The other contestants were the Maltese Justine Buttigieg and the Italian Letizia Gasparri, whom Marcon also beat. Thus Marcon won the silver medal in the -63 kgs. The other Maltese girls contesting this competition were Cheryl Cachia, Martina Camilleri, Sarah Ciappara and Leslie-Ann Portelli, who though they still do not have any international competition experience were not scared and took the opportunity of competing against international judoka. Marcon also contested the Open category which she won easily.

Malta placed 5th out of 13 teams at this event’s medal table.

This event would not have been possible without the referees: Dominic Saywell, Mario Cardona, Abdul Rahman Lativ, Ray Spiteri,  David Tooby (GBR), Faruk Solpan (TUR) and Vadim Polazhaev (RUS) and the competition officials Louisa Galea, Alexis Milne, Mario Giuliano, Josephine Calleja and Tiziana Apap who worked without a break.


Check out the photos uploaded on the online album.

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