This weekend we witnessed the return of the biggest jiu-jitsu tournament in Europe, an event aptly named the European Open, set by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF).
Regarded by many as one of the top 5 gi events in the sport, the European Open has been running since January 2004, with only one interruption (2021) due to the COVID19 pandemic. Thus, it was with great pleasure that we saw the return of this grappling institution to the international calendar.
One of the allures of the European Open is the fact that Europe requires less bureaucracy from South American citizens to enter the region in comparison with the US (where the World and Pan Championships take place). This crucial detail is particularly important for Brazil, a country that makes up a big portion of the sport’s market, as it often allows lesser-known Brazilian talent who cannot enter the US to make themselves noticed to an international audience and media. This peculiarity of the Euros makes it one of the toughest tournaments on many athletes’ schedules and a hive for big upsets and unexpected occurrences. The 2022 edition was no different.
One of the stories of the weekend was Checkmat’s 6th Adult Female European title this year (and #2 placement in the male division), which matched team Alliance’s record, making it also a 3rd straight win for the checkered squad. A tremendous achievement for a team that has only recently conquered its first world team title in California (December).
An interesting side-story of this female title is that 36 of the 46 points needed to win the trophy were conquered by one single gym, Fightzone, the Checkmat Team affiliate in London, England. Big numbers for any gym, let alone one far away from the sport’s major hubs of Southern California and São Paulo.
The first signs that something special was about to happen for coach Marco Canha‘s squad took place on day 2 of the competition when Ailish McLaughlin took gold in the female super-heavyweight division as a blue belt. After McLaughlin it was time for 17-year-old Nia Blackman, one of the hottest prospects in the sport, to shine with double gold in the ADULT purple belt division in dominant fashion, no less. The first of many great things to come for the young prodigy in the adult division.
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Another Fightzone athlete very worthy of reference was adult brown belt lightweight silver medal Nadine Tavares who made her debut at the Euros. Nadine had an incredible performance in her weight class and in the open weight where she beat the current Pan American and European heavyweight champ, Leticia Cardozo before losing to one of the European Open’s top performers, double silver medalist Scarlett Lilejfors.
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Helping the team’s medal tally were also white belts Tanya Kodzhabasheva, Maria Gomez, and double bronze blue belt medalist Laura Sieradzan.
MORE MEDALISTS FROM FIGHTZONE
The stream of strong results did not end with the adults as Checkmat also conquered the Masters title and placed 2nd in the juvenile division, once again with the help of Fightzone, who scored double digits on both age groups. In the juvenile division, it was Anabel Lope Beard who made waves with a double gold performance. Despite being away from the competition scene for nearly 2 years, the young blue belt showed she has tremendous potential and could be another emerging star for team UK as is juvenile bronze medalist Ali Albazy.
Continuing the gold trend in the masters division was brown belt Rebecca Gu, and Kristina Zadunaiskaja in the blue belt (who also earned silver in the absolute), as did Ash Salehi, followed by Joana Serras Pires (brown, silver). An incredible campaign for one single gym that achieved over 90 points overall and a testament to coach Marco Canha‘s hard work, he who is also behind the success stories of purple belt 2021 world champions Junior Fernandes and Rodrigo Mariani.