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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

French Judoka Hoping for More European Championship Success on Home Soil

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All told, it’s hard to see how this French juggernaut can be stopped.

Buchard Buoyed

Audrey Tcheuméo – the World Championship silver medallist – and Madeleine Malonga are amongst the best in the business at half-heavyweight, while Sarah-Léonie Cysique is a strong contender in the lightweight category.Whether Buchard will be watching on from home remains to be seen. It’s likely she will instead be plotting her way to 52kg gold at the Euros, with the likes of reigning champion Chelsie Giles, Olympic gold medallist Distria Krasniqi and World Championship silver medal winner Diyora Keldiyorova to overcome in what is a stacked division of talent.There’s French fancy at the heavyweight limit too. Julia Tolofua has a stack of bronze medals to her name in majors alongside a silver at this year’s World Championships and is currently ranked third in the world rankings.But with the home crowd cheering her on, it would take a brave pundit to bet against Buchard.One French judoka with happy memories of competing in front of her home fans is Amandine Buchard.

Home Comforts

She won gold at the 2022 Judo Grand Slam in Paris, and will head to the European Championships on the back of another quality campaign in 2023.In the men’s events, Cédric Revol has medal chances at 60kg, Walide Khyar is ranked number five in the half-lightweight world rankings and Alpha Oumar Djalo is one of the best European half-middleweights around. And that’s before mentioning the great Teddy ‘Big Ted’ Riner, an eleven-time World Championship medal winner.Elsewhere, there’s more than a handful of French judoka with medal chances at the European Championships.Marie-Eve Gahié is a dual World and European champion in the middleweight division, where she may even have to overcome her fellow countryman – Margaux Pinot – in a bid for glory. Pinot herself is a former European Championship gold medallist who won at the Grand Slam in Paris last year, so there could potentially be an all-France final at the 70kg mark.How long she remains in the sport only time will tell, with other judo specialists like Natalia Kuziutina – Buchard’s former 52kg rival – and black belt Valentina Shevchenko making the move into MMA. The latter faces Alexa Grasso for the UFC flyweight title on September 17, with the betting odds making Shevchenko the -250 favorite over the Mexican (-187). A bet calculator confirms that a wager would return in profit, which highlights the Kyrgyzstani’s expected dominance.The dates are set for the 2023 European Judo Championships, with the action heading to the Sud de France Arena in Montpellier from November 3-5. That will act as a poignant homecoming for the team of French judoka, who just a matter of months ago topped the medal table – from a European perspective, at least, behind Japan – at the 2023 World Judo Championships. Given that this French team also dominated the European Championships last year, winning more medals than any other nation, will they once again prove to be an unstoppable force on home soil?

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