The European Judo Championships which opened on Friday in Chelyabinsk, Russia, will be remembered by Israel as one of its delegation's most successful competitions yet. Following three medals won on Friday by Yarden Gerbi, Alice Schlesinger and Soso Palelashvili, Israel walked away on Saturday with the true icing on the cake: a gold medal for Arik Ze'evi.
The former European champion and Olympic medalist won the gold medal in the under-100-kilogram weight class against Georgia's Levan Zhorzholiani, showing – just three months before the London Olympic Games are set to open – he is still at the top of his game.
Saturday's win was the Israeli judoka's ninth medal and fourth gold in his European championship career. At 35 years of age, the win made Ze'evi the oldest European champion in history.
Ze'evi's wonderful day began when he beat Belarus's Yauhen Biadulin, followed by a win over Sweden's Martin Pacek. The Israeli's third battle, in the quarter finals, was against Irakli Tsirekidze of Georgia, who put up such a good fight that neither competitor managed to gain an advantage over the other. Their draw forced the judges to make the final call, pushing Zeevi through to the semi-finals against Russian judoka Zafar Makhmadov, who he beat 0-11.
Ze'evi's success on Saturday is expected to have him ranked eighth in the world, which will provide him with a more favorable draw in the Olympic Games, the last in his magnificent career.
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