Swedish Open 2018 – women divisions!

The 7th version of Swedish Open was held this weekend, 22nd September, and as always organized in a very professional matter. Swedish Open have a setting that many just think they would see in a European Championship or a tournament in that order.

Top female fighters from Lithuania, Hungary and Sweden was challenged by Denmark, Spain, Norway and Switzerland. Eleven fighters in the lightweight -65 kg and seven in the over 65 kg category.

Photo by Svein Olaf Bænnes, Shin Norway

The lightweight category first fight was between the runner up from last edition Mette-Marie Nielsen – Sweden vs Flavia Odermatt – Switzerland. Nielsen has been very tournament active, and was one of the fighters one believed had the capacity to advance from round one. Nielsen does that, being to strong for Flavia Odermatt that gives a good impression, but can’t make it goes her way this time.

Next one for Nielsen became a harder nut to crack: Sanne Larsson – Sweden. Both aggressive in their style, but not doubt that it is Larsson that is the strongest one, as Nielsen are backing up most of the fight. That said, Nielsen is capable of fighting good under pressure. To flags for Larsson 3 for extra round. But before the fight goes on, the judges discuses for several minutes, before it is fight time again. Same pattern as the first round, Nielsen using her arms and punches 3 and 4 times with the same arm, as Larsson fewer but stronger. Times goes, and a another round. Into the 2nd extra round the tings are the same, but one seems to assume that Larsson really begins to burn out. And specially after falling, it takes time to get back up on her feet again. Almost straight from restart Nielsen connect with a good front kick to the body of Larsson and a scoring is a fact. Larsson turning up the pace, and almost clips Nielsen with a high knee in the last seconds, but the time is out, Nielsen advances, strong effort after almost loosing the ordinary round.

Nielsen into her third fight, and in this one it was Hungarian fighter Anett Kovács-Leiter who was ready. Kovács-Leiter had her first win against a strong Stine Haugsdal – Norway. This fight ended in decision with warnings as a factor. All ready half time had Haugsdal Genten, and did get one more in the last seconds of the fight. But if we look at the fight (away from the warnings) it is a interesting fight. Haugsdal very strong, and direct in her style. Strong enough to be a challenge for the most of the fighters in this category. Kovács-Leiter also a strong fighter, but being pushed back by Haugsdal. As a result of this, Kovács-Leiter shows the ability to change her game, move, angling her opponent and taking of the pressure – keeping the distance with multiply front kicks to prevent Haugsdal into closer distance and where her strength was at it best. But as said, time: 3 minutes and the decision to Kovács-Leiter during the warnings for high punching.

Kovács-Leiter into the semifinal vs Mette-Marie Nielsen. This was a very interesting set up, both experienced fighters stylish but adaptable if needed. Kovács-Leiter takes the roll of stalking down her opponent. Patient, and there is no doubt that this puts a pressure on Nielsen. We saw in the previous fight that Kovács-Leiter moved very well being under pressure, and skills at the same level was shown being the one making the pressure. To pursue her opponent, cut corners, and move sideways to maintain pressure, and not least lock her opponent in the corners of the mat. But Nielsen of course, not giving anything for free, and into the first extension it goes. The same pattern, but in to the last part of this round, Kovács-Leiter put on more pressure. Locking Nielsen in the corner and “burns down” Nielsen’s attempt to break out. This secured the victory with 3 flags. Kovács-Leiter to the final, where the champion from 2014 waited: Cecilia Wallin- Sweden. Photo  by Annika Peterson

Wallin started with a victory against Magdalena Gustaitytė – Lithuania. This was a long and very even fight, extensions and weight then 2 minutes before the decision are given 4-1 in the favor of Wallin. Gustaitytė was maybe a hair stronger the last 30, striking vise it was very even, but Wallin did connect often with her low-kicks through the whole fight, and that was a difference.Next one for the Swedish fighter was Spanish fighter Irantzu Garcia De Garayo. This one are done in the ordinary round. Irantzu Garcia De Garayo are getting a “hard day at work” when Wallin turn up the pace. Showing good spirit the Spanish fighter, but being a number to small this day. Wallin into the semifinal vs Jeanette Johannessen Norway.

Johannessen winning her first fight vs Svenja Zimmermann – Switzerland. Johannessen being the stronger one, Zimmermann showing good spirit and technique, but misses this time to reach the win. Johannessen being stronger as the fight goes on. Fight two for Johannessen was against Beathe Hegerland – Norway. They have fought each other many times,and of course a little pity for Hegerland coming into a international tournament and meet a country fellowman – but so it is. Anyway, hard fight between two fighter that known each other from before, and after an extension Johannessen takes it. Hegerland showing personal improvements, and will continues to improve.

The Wallin vs Johannessen fight goes fast, hard and no doubt that the pace are up from the start. Both fighters seems to get a edge when the trows their attacks, and both are going hard on their opponents legs. Low-kicks and “stomp-kicks” are taking it’s toll. One extra round and still even, the pattern are the same, and the pace are entertaining high! The second extra round are also similar to the previous, but Wallin connecting more and close it with a higher pace.

The final Wallin vs Kovács-Leiter was a really good final. Once again we could see the tactical aspect to neutralize the other. Kovács-Leiter was keeping a constant pressure, and did it a little harder for Wallin to have her optimal distance – especially with the kicks. But Wallin have the routine to look for solutions. Strong finish in the ordinary round by Kovács-Leiter but extension given with 4 flag. In this round is it Wallin who takes the initiative, but Kovács-Leiter comes stronger and stronger into the fight, once again a very strong finish, and one could think that it had been a flag or two in the direction of Hungary this time. But 5 flags for more fighting, and of course the condition factor will raise. A good last round, and more of the same pattern that has been seen in the fight, Wallin coming more on the right distance and using stiff punches, knees and kicks to keep it – and to score. Kovács-Leiter still keeping the pressure on, and gives back strong attacks when the occasion is chosen. 4-1 to Wallin and Swedish Open champion for her 2nd time! Kovács-Leiter awarded the best female fighter of the tournament!

In the over 65 kg category we had several fighters with good merits. Many stated that the category was better that it had been for some editions. First fight was between Sara Hägge – Sweden and Christine Buchholtz – Denmark. These to have been fighting each other many times, in the Swedish Open final 2014 among others. As we have seen before when these two meets, the fights goes over several rounds – and that what’s happened this time as well. And that in favor of Hägge.

In the 2nd fight, semifinal,  Hägge met Brigita Gustaitytė – Lithuania. Gustaitytė has been one of the most active heavyweight fighters in Europe, and she has been one of the fighters that Hägge is struggling to overcome. Gustaitytė 1st fight was against the less experienced but promising Therese N Østebrød – Norway.

Photos  by Annika Peterson

Hägge vs Gustaitytė. This fight was also in Gustaitytė favor, the size and strength alone is a factor, but Gustaitytė do also possess skills that brought her to the EC final this year. But size matters, and as we have seen in similar fights that one fighter can absorb almost everything regarding to the size difference, staying less active and just follow the other fighter round, before a 30 seconds higher pace secure the win.

Hägge is doing a good job working the good pace,Gustaitytė on her side connect with many good low-kicks from the start – a good tool to bring down the pace of a movable fighter. Strong finish from both, and Gustaitytė also comes up with knee and headkick attempt that is good. Extra round, and this one changes a little in the picture, now the fight are more in close distance then before, but still a good pace. Both have a strong finish,Hägge trying to change angel being the smaller fighter, Gustaitytė manage to use knees and punches to create the pressure – and a pushing elbow strike to regulate the distance. Gustaitytė takes the fight and the ticket into the final.

The other ticket to the final was given to Moa Jensen – Sweden. Jensen had walk over in the first fight, and in the second she met Norwegian fighter Marleen Gregusson. Gregusson came out on top in her first fight vs Spanish top fighter Aiala Garcia. This fight was a really entertaining fight, Garcia with a very strong drive, great spirit and all round technical variation. Gregusson with well timed moves and in that good defense, and a good eye for variations when there are possibilities for that. This fight could offer many tactical variations from both fighters. The fight went over ordinary round and two extensions before the decision went to Gregusson. But it was close to a knock out in the start of the first extension when Gregusson connected with a knee to the head of Garcia. This after several to the body. Almost the same happen in the last round, with a head kick that barely missed, but Garcia always good to pick up the pace. Photos  by Annika Peterson

Gregusson vs Moa became somewhat characterized by the size difference between the fighters. In the beginning Jensen starts with some low-kicks, these are to heavy to take, and Gregusson picks up the defense, combined movement and blocking. Gregusson staying the most active throwing techniques and angling her opponent. This also results that Jensen hurts her foot, instep when one of the kicks lands wrong. The pace are raised in the late part of the fight, Jensen pushing Gregusson back and get a win with 4 flags, and into the final.

(Photo by Annika Peterson ) Brigita Gustaitytė vs Moa Jensen in the final, and unlike what we have been used to see this category finals did not end in several rounds and extensions. Gustaitytė took what Jensen had to offer, who started off fresh in the beginning, and when that was done it was her show the rest of the fight. Jensen could not shake Gustaitytė, and staying in the zone and receiving a couple of inside low-kicks that clearly hurt her, made it even more visible. Gustaitytė controlling it all, when Jensen tries to go for the 30 last second finish – Gustaitytė neutralized it and short story: secures her 2nd Swedish Open tittle!

Trough the Swedish Open we got served a very good tournament – in all aspects. The setting for a fighter is really good, and walking up on a elevated tatami with spotlight lifts the excitement and the right feeling.

The judging are after what we can say very good. Note this: one can always be of an different opinion when it comes to judgment, as in other things. But one of the major things is to keep the fighters safe, trough the rules and to have full control. One thing that is very good taken care of is the head-punches. Looking to some tournaments that this topic are not been handled well, or serious enough, and it is easy to see that it it appears more and more. Swedish Open is a tournament that emphasizes Sweden and Swedish full contact Karate, with good support from their neighbors Denmark and Norway. And as a very nice “spice” to it all the support from the European countries as well. -and this year not to forget USA!

The competition was hosted by Swedish Karate Kyokushinkai in a cooperation with Göteborgs Karate Kai, Banzai Karate Kai, Keiko Fighting & Fitness, Kungälv Kyokushin Karate and Bollebygd Budo-kai.