Malta International Judo Open – a successful event

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 7:12

Last month has been a busy one for the Malta Judo Federation: It hosted its flagship event, the Malta International Judo Open, 11 Judo Coaches graduated as Level 2 Coaches from the Maltese Olympic Committee Coaching Academy and Semmelweis University, and the athletes are gearing up for another training camp with Lamberto Raffi.

The Maltese Olympic Committee held the Graduation Day for 117 coaches from 21 Sport Disciplines at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry in Valletta. The Judo Coaches Vito Aufieri, Joseph Bonello, Mario Cardona, Lloyd Caruana, Joseph Castillo, Serge Dintimille, Ivan Esposito, Louisa Agius Galea, Murman Korchilava, Alexis Milne and Gaetano Scerri received their certificates presented by the Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education of Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary Dr.Zsolt Radak.

This was the first National Professional Qualification system of its kind for coaches organised by the Maltese Olympic Committee, in collaboration and with full support of Olympic Solidarity which was instrumental for such venture .

6 countries – France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, USA and Malta – contested 9 categories in the Senior event at the 30th edition of the Malta International Judo Open. The regional team of Sicily was composed of 8 Judoka who between them won European Cadet Championships and Cup medals, and several National Cadet Titles. The French club ACBB, who recently won a bronze medal at the French Premier League Team Championships, was also represented. The opportunity to compete with such high level athletes on Maltese soils was taken by several cadet judoka who made their debut in international senior events.

In the girls’ categories, 3 categories were contested. The -63kgs was contested by 3 Maltese – Marcon Bezzina, Ruby Jo Bondi and Cheryl Kaye Cachia – and Margarita Cabrera (Ricardo Tuero and Budokai USA). Bezzina showed her experience and superiority on the mat, winning all 3 fights with Ippon. Marcon then contested the Open girls category against Cabrera. In a best out of three system, Bezzina showed her superiority on the mat winning the first 2 rounds, and therefore the 3rd round was not needed, as Bezzina had already won the category. In the -57kgs category Elvira Dragemark (Sakura Judo Göteborg SWE) was the favourite, and in fact won the gold medal. 2 Maltese cadets, Nichola Battistino and Rebecca Muscat, contested the category, and though they did not make it to the final round, they both gave a great performance on the mat. The -70kgs was won by Ruby Jo Bondin, which was also contested by Nicola Cassar.

In the boys’ categories, the -81kgs was one of the categories that was very difficult to predict as all contenders were very experienced judoka. French Benjamin Constant from ACBB recently won a silver medal at the French First Division League Semi Finals. Italian Lorenzo Rigano (Regione Sicilia) has a set of 2 gold and 2 bronze at Cadet European Cups. The Maltese Murman Korchilava has a silver and bronze medal at the Games of Small States of Europe, and a bronze at a Junior European Cup. The Italian Giuseppe Di Chiara has won medals at the Italian Junior Grand Prix. Korchilava had a very close encounter with both Rigano and Constant, however did not manage to conclude the contests with a winning score. In the last match, Korchilava was determined that he was getting on the podium, and worked his way for a jujigatame (straight arm lock) until Di Chiara gave up, thus awarding the bronze medal to Korchilava. The cadet Francesco Aufieri, who usually contests the -81kgs, was injured and did not make it at this event.

In the -90kgs, Isaac Bezzina first beat Cvetan Mikhailovic, who is of Serbian Nationality but trains in Malta. The final match between Bezzina and William Raffi (ITA) – current Italian National Champion in Freestyle Wrestling and top junior Judoka in Italy – was a close match, but Bezzina finally succumbed to the strength of Raffi. Bezzina also contested the Open +73kgs against Constant (FRA). A best of three system was used. The first contest was won by Constant, but in the second round, Bezzina countered Constant’s attack, producing one of the nicest Ippon (full points) of the competition. However, in the final match, the experience of Constant proved to be a great asset in the contest and Constant beat Bezzina.

The 60kgs was contested by 10 athletes, amongst which the Maltese Cadets Alexander Esposito, Gabriel Debono and Junior Ishmael Grogan. Esposito’s weight category is usually -55kgs, but the -60kgs is the smallest senior weight category. Gabriel Debono was drawn against Daniel Raffi (ITA). In the morning edition of the tournament, Debono beat Raffi and won a bronze medal in the Cadet -60kgs. But Debono did not manage to repeat his performance in the afternoon. Raffi then lost to Eduardo Rendo (Koizumi Scicli ITA), thus eliminating the possibility of Debono to continue in repechage to compete for bronze. Esposito was drawn against Salvatore Leone (Regione Sicilia ITA). Leone won the next match qualifying to the quarter finals thus giving another chance to Esposito. Esposito lost his contest against Andrea Cannemolla (Koizumi Scicli ITA). In his next match, Cannemolla won against the Maltese Ishamel Grogan, who despite the light weight, also contested the -60kgs. The category was won by Angelo Pantano (Regione Sicilia ITA), which was no surprise to anyone. Pantano won the European Cadet Championships in 2013, and has a collection of 4 gold and 2 bronze medals won at Cadet European Cups, the last one added only a week before the open.

The -66kgs was contested by Kriss Law, Antonio Greco and the cadet Cormack Spiteri. Law was sick on the day, and did not fight. Spiteri was drawn against Gabriele Bossettini (Regione Sicilia ITA). Bossettini had just won a Cadet European Cup Bronze medal the week before the Open. This experience was evident in the contest against Spiteri, who did not give up easily but succumbed to an Ippon of Bossettini. Greco was drawn against Matteo Morolli (Yubikai ITA). Greco was disqualified after he received 4 shido for not attacking. Morolli then lost with Christopher Ling (Zodiac Judokwai GBR).

2 Maltese contested the -73kgs – Conrad Zammit and the cadet Alessio Muscat. Muscat placed 4th after he beat Zammit. The -100kgs was only contested by foreign Judoka, with the Italian Oliver Grasso placing first and Michael Rossberg from Germany placing second.

In the morning session, the Fra Andrew Bertie Judo Festival, apart from the Judoka who contested the Senior categories, Espoir and Cadet Judoka had their events. Amongst these, Alice Battistino, Lara Castillo, Kurt Camilleri, Matteo Lanfranco, Emily Farrugia, Esther Spiteri, Nathan Falzon, Thomas Borg, and Jonathan Gatt gave a great performance winning most of their fights against the local Judoka.

The following day, the young Judoka showed off their skills together with Sensei Joe Castillo, Sensei Gaetano Scerri, Sensei Mario Giuliano, some of the athletes from Saturday including Benjamin Constant and other coaches.


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