Relocated from the usual location of Italy – and usual timing of November – the 2016 WJF European Championships and training camp took place in Thessaloniki, Greece between 24th – 26th June.

With over 17 countries taking part, team JFAUK had a successful time coming away with four gold, one silver and one bronze medal.

The competition followed standard WJF EU rules of traditional upright judo emphasising clean techniques and a strong encouragement of ne-waza.

On Friday 24th June an international training session was led by Alfredo Visamara and Valter Scolari of Italy and Sampson Sampson of great Britain. This session allowed the European judoka to all train and integrate together before the contest.

On Saturday the 25th June the 2016 WJF European Championships were opened by Hanshi Alfredo Vismara of Italy and Hanshi Sampson Sampson of Great Britain. The first of the two day event saw the junior and para athletes take to the tatami as well as JFAUK’s Samuel Betu and Sampson Sampson who were part of the refereeing team over the course of the weekend. JFAUK would like to specially congratulate Samuel Betu who’s impeccable refereeing vision truly stood out and won over the crowd.

For the first time in WJF history these championships integrated a para athlete category. The historical category consisted of four judoka all who were both born with cerebral palsy and weighted at -58kg. This was the first category to take place at the championships and got the event of to a great start.

The first JFAUK judoka to compete was Karl Summerbell – who fell into the para athlete category. Karl, a judoka who only has full use of one side of his body took the category by storm winning all fights with ippon, demonstrating great diversity of skill with both Nage Waza and Ne Waza technique, taking the gold.

JFAUK would like to specially congratulate the para athletes who truly displayed the spirit of judo and were overwhelmingly inspiring to watch. JFAUK would also like to congratulate Karl on his promotion to 1st Dan which followed after the event. Karl has been working towards this promotion for over two years taking part in numerous technical, refereeing and coaching courses to ensure his knowledge was ready, and the final hurdle was the championships which allowed Karl to be promoted as a contest – rather than honorary – dan grade, a feat which is uncommon for judoka who suffer from conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Representing JFAUK in the juniors was Abderrahim Rahmani and Bert Vocaldo. Abderrahim was up first in the -35kg category and battled through a tough pool before facing the final against a young Bulgarian who had been on great form all day. However, Abderrahim was not rattled by his opponent and pulled of an enormous left handed Tai O Toshi to take away the Gold medal.

Next to contend for a European title was Bert Vocaldo in the -38kg category who made use of excellent ashi waza to work his way into the final. Unfortunately Bert was caught by a Greek judoka in the final round and settled for a silver medal, an achievement none the less. With 3 medals in the bag, the pressure was on for the seniors to perform on the Sunday.

On Sunday the 26th June the JFAUK seniors stepped on the tatami in attempt to top the podium. First up was 2015 European Champion Ross Elliot. Ross unluckily then suffered an injury to his left rib and was caught out in the first round and knocked into the repechage. Ross continued to fight on valiantly and found himself with a bronze medal.
Next up was Peter Vincent in the +100kg Category. Peter fought through his category utilizing a combination of swift footwork to execute clean nage waza and smooth transitions to finish off opponents in Ne-Waza, taking the Gold.

Sam Sampson was up next and hoping to improve on his 2015 Bronze medal in the -79 category. Sam worked his way into the final and found himself facing a Bulgarian judoka who had previously gotten the better of him in 2015. Determined for redemption the two battled it out and after a close fight, Sam came out on top, claiming the gold.

Jason Baird found himself on the tatami next and once again in one of the largest categories of the day. After coming through the first round by dominating his opponent in ne-waza, he was knocked into the repechage by the eventual gold medallist. In a repeat of 2015, Jason worked his way into the repechage final before falling short and just missing out on the bronze.

Carl Boiling was the last judoka of the day, making his way through the first fight using a great ouchi gari counter. He was unfortunately knocked out the competition in the second round, and as his opponent was unable to reach the final Carl was unable to be pulled into the repechage.

JFAUK would like to thank Morgan Class Kirtley who still attended the trip despite being unable to compete due to illness. Morgan proved to be a key member, supporting competing athletes throughout the weekend and taking on media related duties.

The trip proved to be successful weekend for JFAUK who managed to gain 4 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal in total. Well done to all our judoka for their efforts on the tatami. After the contest the greek hosts took the team out for a social evening before heading to Halkidiki the following day to relax in the sun and blow off some steam after months of preparation.

Thank you to the WJF, our Greek hosts and all supporting countries who made this event a success.

You can view the photos here: WJF European Open Championships 2016 Photo Album

You can download the country medal table below. Please note countries that did not get any medals are not featured in the table.