European Championship Open weight – The road to World Championship

One week ago the final selection for the 12th World Championship was held in Prague. Besides 33 fighters in the open-weight women division the tournament also was European Championship for Cadets, Juniors and U-21 in total close to 500 competitors was gathered in the Czech Republic for EC. Results and write ups have already been done, but we like to dive into this with some thoughts from our point of view.

Hot and loud – would be our first words – but of course if you are used to this kind of heat it will be no problem. But for sure this time of the year will bring the heat factor into play. Being almost dehydrated when you wake up after sleeping could be a challenge.It could be a thought around the topic that when you are finish with your tournament in the first day – there are still competitors trying to sleep waiting for day two where it’s their time. A mix of that and the fact that you could hear a mice sneeze in the hall trough your door. Anyway, we felt very welcome and we did really enjoy our stay in the Czech Republic! (Visit Pi-photo.pl for photos!)  Svein Olaf Bennæs photos in this article.

Many have pointed it out all ready, and we agree, the hotel with rooms to all, and the distance between the sport-shall was very good things. We liked the sports-hall in general, not unexpectedly the noise level at times was somewhat troublesome and this meant that you did not hear information that was given through loudspeakers. But there were other ways to weigh this up, so fighters mostly found their mat at the right time. The organizing was in total good – as it should be when it is a European Championship.

The time has come to have a World Championship with all nations represented in the women category as well.

Tournament day – and it is safe to say that from the first Hajime it was war. Into top 16 fighters, the level really high. Andreea Merca / Romania being to strong for Sandra Nowak / Poland. Merca did also have a tough challenge in the first round against Rima Lisinskaitė / Lithuania who is reign KWU EC Champion, but also in this fight Merca pushed trough, avoiding Lisinskaitė attempt to reach in with high knees. With these two victories Merca was ready face one of the up and coming favorites: Lili Mező / Hungary

Mező advanced with victories against Barbora Kazdová / Czech Republic and former EC Champion Isis Pinilla / Spain – who made a little comeback in the Internationale arena. Both this victories was expected – even against Pinillia’s known level.

Mezo vs Merca it’s hard to difficult to retell in words, because here we are talking about an intensity that must be felt. Firstly, they are two fighters who can fights anywhere in the world and it will be of interest. Merca strong in her pressure – Mező working with knees to the thighs of Merca and elbows to slow down the pressure and keep the distance i her favor. Mező makes the variation and connects with a high knee – Merca’s reaction are to raise the pace and increase the pressure. Both fighters chose their best weapon and tactics to get the advantage. Mező add more moves side to side, as Merca pushes on. Into the last period some really good exchanges, and Mező execute a nice roll-kick – but Merca have control. In the absolute last second Mező steps in a front kick to the face of Merca – Merca takes it, but doesn’t seems shaken. Many did believe the extension was to come, but the decision was give to Lili Mező after a very interesting fight!

In the next block, Marta Lubos / Poland was ready for Anastasiia Khrustalova / Ukraine. Lubos became to strong for Ioana Vaida / Romania (picture) – who was showing really good skills, especially kicking skills. Fight two advanced Lubos against Vaiva Kairaitytė / Lithuania -once again Lubos showing high pace strong fighting. The third victory is a fact against Khrustalova, decision after ordinary time. Khrustalova have a god solid style, nice techniques – but Lubos is always ahead and get the better out of the exchanges. Towards the end of the fight Lubos raises the pace and this can’t Khrustalova match.

Lili Mezo vs Marta Lubos could easily be the best fight of the tournament. Here we see a battle at a very high technical level. Techniques that are delivered are sharp, assembled in combination blades, executed precisely and not least with speed and power. If you see the fight as a whole, you also see the tactical game and how proficient practitioners adapt and change their game along the way. Mezo – always dangerous with knees and kicks that could end the fight right there. Lubos aggressive, coming forward with good combinations – moving smart offensive and defensive. The two competitors follow each others, trying to get the upper hand. A little situation appears when they accidentally collide, and as a result Lubos break her nose. This can be a hard challenge to face, because it interrupt your breading, and also if the blood are being a factor as well, it comes down in your mouth and give you even more to think about. “Feel it to believe it”  Luckily for all parts, Marta “Bluenose” can go on, and the fight pick’s up where it left. After all extensions are done they are still dead-even – and the decision on weight is a fact. The winner Lili Mezo from Hungary!

On the other side of the draw, Spanish fighter Aiala Garcia made her way trough the brackets. Good start for Garcia, defeating a very competent Csenge Tóth / Hungary. Following it up in the second fight vs Skaistė Venckutė / Lithuania. Into the third fight a European Champion was ready: Alyona Veresnyak / Ukraine. Veresnyak was impressing in the first fight vs Patricia Farcas / Romania, where the Ukrainian fighter really made it hard for her opponent. Farcas do also possess good skills, so this was a good start for Veresnyak. Fight two for Veresnyak became a surprise for many, Norwegian Marleen Gregusson almost knocked out Veresnyak, and had the European Champion from 2018 on thin ice. The Norwegian fighter combined her attacks very well, going hard on Veresnyak’s legs – so shifting to the head – and down on the legs again. One knee hit Veresnyak in the face, the judge moves in to stop, but changes his mind – and waved the fight to go on. Gregusson misses the opportunity to follow up, and the very tough Veresnyak keep on going. This fight end unfortunately by warnings, Veresnyak into third fight vs Garcia.

Both fighters starts of fresh – but into the fight Garcia clips Veresnyak to the head with a headkick – and this time Veresnyak goes down. An ippon win for Garcia and into the semifinal with the Spanish fighter! For Veresnyak it was now the fight for the 5/6 place – but many believed that this fight would not be held, in the process of Veresnyak being knocked down in her previous fight, but the fight was on – and we must admire the spirit of Veresnyak going all inn one more time! In this fight Polish top fighter Monika Zielińska was ready for Veresnya. Zielińska was eager to make things right, being disqualified in the previous fight. Wish come trough for Zielińska as she also knocked out Veresnya with kicks to the body.

From the last block  Aneta Meškauskienė / Lithuania struggled her way trough the field. Highly merited from IFK and KWU, high level was expected. Meškauskienė manage to pull out victories first against Kristina Kojundžić / Croatia and in the second fight against Kristína Hupian / Slovakia. Both fight was very demanding and tough, and it really needs something extra to tip hard even fights in the right direction.

In the third fight the level increased even more, now EC merited Camille Haddouche / France was ready. This was a very long,hard and even fight – and the fighters possesses and use quite similar style in this fight. But a difference it is of course. Haddouche always dangerous with her headkicks, Meškauskienė always pushing forward constantly working. This fight are so even, if the meet again it will be impossible to predict who will win. In this battle Meškauskienė makes it trough – get the decision.

Aneta Meškauskienė faces Monika Zielińska in the next fight, and Zielińska have all ready proven her top level by beating Nora Vaznelytė / Lithuania among others. unfortunately, Monika hit unregulated. this ends in disqualification (as mentioned) The damage is also of such a nature that Aneta Meškauskienė can not continue in the tournament. This means that Meškauskienė vs Garcia will not be held.

The final between Lili Mező and Aiala Garcia. Garcia brings the fight immediately. But Mező is the one who has the most left, and she also has this extra – which is among other things threatening kicks, and that she is good at using her longer range tactically. Toward the end of the fight Mező raises the pace, and it seems quite clear that this will be victory in the ordinary round – and so it was. Both finalist reached their strongest merits – up to this point, and it will be very interesting to follow them in the World Championship together with the rest!

We witness a tournament on the highest level this weekend i Prague. Many have written about it, and as always we read it and we forget it – and goes on. We seem to have a dawning form of resignation when it comes to the things that one always feels like after a tournament. It’s an exciting time to come. The 12th World Championship. That is one thing, but it is also a frequency of activities that are very high. We must always balance this with quantity and quality. Athletes have never before been better prepared, the level has never been higher. The pace, and the variations in the fights changes in high speed. At the tatami in total 7 persons are involved. How much do/can each person train an prepare to solve his/her task? One can not have a role in this any more if the preparation are medium. That’s a prize one must be willing to offer – being a part of the absolute top level of Fullcontact karate.

For the seniors this European Championship was close the the last one. Several factors come into play here as well. Recovery, preparation, development, to peak the top shape and more. All these factors will suffer when the big tournaments are coming to close. Finally, you reach a point where you have to cut back on participation. We think it is a bit until we reach it – but if you look around then this is the case for several other similar works. It must always be balanced and too much activity aligned to the same level will not increase the level – it will limit it.

Video from proKyokushin