Arik Ze'evi took bronze in the under-100 kilo category at the European Championships in Serbia Sunday to all but secure his place at next summer's Beijing Olympics.
To confirm his place in Beijing, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist will have to either finish in the top five at the World Championships later this year or to be ranked among the top nine in Europe - almost a given after his medal in Belgrade.
If the European Championship is any indication of his chances in Beijing, Ze'evi can come out of the tournament encouraged that he took a medal on what was a tough day for him.
Ze'evi came up against opponents he doesn't like to face - opponents who fight defensively, forcing him to invest a lot of energy.
Ze'evi won his opening bouts against Francesco Lepre with a yuka to the Italian's koka, and in the second round downed Amel Mekic of Bosnia with a waza-ari. But in the quarterfinal against his old rival Elco Vad Der Gees, Ze'evi could only manage a yuka to the Dutchman's yuka and waza-ari, and was sent to the repechage round.
Ze'evi again had to go the full distance in the first round of the repechage, where he downed Franz Birkfellner with a yuka, waza-ari and koka to the Austrian's koka.
In the repechage final two waza-aris won the bout against Dimitri Peters of Germany and sent Zeevi though to the bronze deal fight against Levan Zhorzoliani of Georgia.
Despite his fatigue after his long route to the bout, Ze'evi leveraged his experience to beat the Georgian by a koka and added a bronze to his previous haul of three European championship golds and a silver.
"I had a long and tough day, but I am glad that I came out of it with a medal," Ze'evi said.
There was disappointment for the other Israeli judoka in action in Belgrade Sunday. Alon Sasson went out in the second round in the under-90 kilo category, while heavyweight Rosting Liss was downed by an ippon in his first round bout.
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