Hosts Bulgaria have not been spoiled for the past decade, with a stunning result in the preliminary rounds of the first day of the European Championships in Sofia, with the Bulgarian athletes providing the home crowd with a lot of feeling.
Yanislav Gerchev successfully reached the men’s U60 kg final again. Gochev, who lost two European finals in 2017 and 2018, hit the ball again with refreshing energy. The No. 8 seed in the U60kg category defeated Artem Lesiuk of Ukraine in the quarter-finals and Jorre Verstraeten (BEL) in a tight battle in the semi-finals. With the support of the home fans in Bulgaria, Verstraeten scored his third penalty after just over 12 minutes into the game. Georghi Petrov got the chance to celebrate his first European title since 1981. Nine of the 10 European finals have been lost by Bulgarian players, but this is the first time a European Championship is being held in the country.
Gerchev will play against Francisco Garrigos from Spain, who is theoretically more experienced, but Gerchev beat him twice in 2017 and 2018. He is the defending European champion, having lost to Galigos at the 2021 World Championships, and has advanced to the European final for the fourth time in a row since 2019. The only time he missed a podium in 2018 was when Gerchev blocked him in the quarterfinals. Galigos defeated former world champion Lukhumi Chihviamiani from Georgia in the semifinals.
Ukraine Men’s Singles Final
Ukraine did have a finalist in Sofia as Bogdan Yadov qualified after beating Yashar Najafov (AZE) in the semi-final. In the U66kg category, Iadov is the successor to judo magician and legend Georgii Zantaraia. Both have been at war to defend their country over the past few weeks, and it’s still a performance for Yadov, who has come out of the shadows a few years later, and could step into the footsteps of Zantaraja, who won the European title in 2019. Yadov also beat Israeli favourite Baruch Shmailov, but will take bronze against Denis Vieru, who is the top odds ahead.
Two Spanish men reach finals since 20 years
Another Spaniard, Alberto Gaitero, who made it to the final, finally made it for the Spaniard on day one. The last time two Spaniards played in the final was in 2003, losing both games. The last Spanish European Champion was Sugoi Uriarte in 2010, who gave Daria Bilodid a place at his club in Spain. The forums there have mixed feelings, but everyone is sure to follow their heart and support their teammates. Iadov is probably the favorite as he beat Gaitero five times in seven matches because they know each other because they are trainees. The last two games of the senior year were won by Iadov, who even took home a bronze medal this year in Tel Aviv.
Read more about Bogdan Iadov’s past few months.