National judokas enjoy global success [PHOTO]
By Laman Ismayilova
Azerbaijani judokas continue to achieve global successes, enriching the country's medal haul with new victories.
The men's judo team has become the leader in the number of medals won since the beginning of the year. In total, the judo fighters won 67 medals including 25 gold, 16 silver, and 26 bronze medals.
National judoka Hidayat Heydarov became the champion at the European Judo Championships Seniors Sofia 2022. In the final, he defeated the Italian opponent Giovanni Esposito.
Rustam Orujov (73 kg) won the bronze medal, beating the Romanian Adrian Sulk. The bronze medal also came from Mammadali Mehdiyev (90 kg).
More than 300 judo fighters from 40 countries took part in the competition.
The national team included Shafag Hamidova, Ramila Aliyeva (48 kg), Balabey Ahgayev, Ahmad Yusifov (60 kg), Ibrahim Aliyev, Yashar Najafov (66 kg), Rustam Orujov, Hidayat Heydarov (73 kg), Mammadali Mehdiyev (90 kg), Elmar Gasimov (100 kg) and Ushangi Kokauri (+100 kg).
Meanwhile, Shahin Orujzade (55 kg), Mehdi Jafarov (66 kg), Ismayil Zamanov (81 kg) and Vugar Talibov (90 кг) captured gold medals at Bucharest Cadet European Cup 2022.
At the same time, Vugar Talibov ranked first at the Continental Junior Individual Championships in Nantes, France.
All these victories made Azerbaijan a leader in terms of the number of medals won in the men's judo competition.
Founded in 1972, the Azerbaijan Judo Federation actively promotes this martial art across the country. Since 2015, the federation has been led by Rovnag Abdullayev.
The country's modern judo history was laid by Mehman Azizov, who won a silver medal at the Old World Championship in 1998.
A year later, the winner of the World Youth Games in Moscow, Rasul Salimov, grabbed the bronze medal at the European Championship in Slovakia. Another national judoka Elchin Ismayilov became the European champion in 2000 in Wroclaw.
However, the achievements of Azerbaijani judo fighters did not stop there. Elnur Mammadli was named best at the Beijing Olympics 2008 in the 73 kg division. In the final, he beat Wang Ki-Chun and brought home a gold medal. In Beijing, Movlud Miraliyev enriched the country's medal haul with a bronze medal.
The Beijing Olympics 2008 gave a fresh impetus to judo in Azerbaijan.
The list of the country's top judo fighters includes Rustam Orujov, İrina Kindzerskaya, Mammadali Mehdiyev, Elmar Gasimov, Hidayat Heydarov, Zelim Kotsoev, Ushangi Kokauri, and Nijat Shikhalizadeh.
Rustam Orujov is the silver medalist of the 2016 Summer Olympics in the men's 73 kg event. Last year, he climbed the podium six times in various competitions. The silver medal at the World Championships in Tokyo is of particular attention.
Irina Kindzerskaya also showed her best at the judo championships. The final of the Grand Slam in Dusseldorf 2020 also added extra points to Irina in the judo ranking.
Mammadali Mehdiyev is a bronze medalist in the European Games in Minsk. He also finished fifth at the Grand Slam in Osaka, Paris, and Dusseldorf.
Elmar Gasimov competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and won a silver medal in 2016.
The judo fighter won a gold medal at the 2009 European Youth Championship, after defeating Lukáš Krpálek in the final. He also grabbed bronze at the 2017 World Championships.
Hidayat Heydarov enriched the country's medal haul with a gold medal at the 2017 European Judo Championships. He defeated his teammate Rustam Orujov at the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games final.
Zelim Kotsoev became Junior World Champion in Zagreb in 2017 and was also European Junior champion in 2017 in Maribor.
He won the Grand Prix Antalya in 2018 and became European Cadet Champion U18 in 2014 in Athens and in 2015 in Sofia. The judoka took silver at the World Cadet Championships in Sarajevo in 2015.
He also won the European Championships bronze in 2018 in Tel Aviv. Later, he took two bronze medals at the Grand Slam in Dusseldorf and silver in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Ushangi Kokauri represented Azerbaijan at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
He won bronze at the Grand Slam in Paris and Abu Dhabi. He took fifth place at the European Games, the Grand Prix in Antalya, and Tel Aviv.
Nijat Shikhalizadeh took second place at the Oceania Open Cup in Perth. He also grabbed a silver medal at the Grand Slam in Baku.
Azerbaijani judokas continue to achieve global successes enriching the country's medal haul with new victories.
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Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lamiva993