Arik Ze'evi's return to the mat after an eight month absence through injury did not provide much of a challenge for the Olympic bronze medalist and three-time European champion. Up against Israel's senior judoka at the University Games in Tel Aviv were three amiable students - Anton Pulman lasted all of 39 seconds, Dimitri Leicin was floored after 52 seconds and Michael Steinberg managed to hold out for 1:05 minutes before succumbing to the inevitable ippon.
But all the same Ze'ev was visibly excited about returning to the mat eight months after a shoulder injury prevented him from participating in the world championship in Cairo.
"It may only have been the University Games, but it gave me a feeling of competition," Ze'evi said. "I'm not really satisfied with my performance; I tried to execute my favorite move but it didn't work. I have only just gone back into training and my arm isn't strong enough yet."
Ze'evi will join the Israel squad for a training camp in Moscow this week before taking part in an international tournament in Slovenia at the end of the month. "Facing serious opponents at training camp I will be able to see where I stand and how I have progressed. At the end of the month I will compete in Slovenia in my first international competition since the injury and then we will see."
When Ze'evi says "we will see," he is referring to the European Championship in Helsinki in May. Ze'evi has won the title three times and last year, even though he was far from his peak, he made the final. Ze'evi says he will travel to Helsinki only if he his completely sure of being able to compete.
"The most important thing is my health," says Ze'evi,"but it would be disappointing not to compete at the European championship, because it is the only major championship this year."
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