Arik Ze'evi's barren spell may have come to an end yesterday. The three-time European champion and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist won the Super A tournament in Hamburg, putting behind him a year and a half in which he missed the 2005 World Championship through injury and made an early exit from last year's Europeans.
"I came to the championship with a lot of trepidation," Ze'evi told Haaretz yesterday, after beating Russia's Russlan Gasymov in the final. "My training and preparation were good, but I didn't know how I would perform in the tournament. From the start, though, I felt really good."
In his first bout, Ze'evi dismissed Primoz Ferjan of Slovenia in an ippon in 2:21 minutes; he followed that by downing Uzbekistan's Oktir Kurbanov with an ippon in just 23 seconds, to set up a quarter-final clash with Japan's Keiji Suzuki.
Suzuki is the reigning over-100 kilo category Olympic champion, but has since cut down his weight to compete in the under-100 kilo class, where he has dominated for the past two years.
Ahead by a koka to a penalty, Ze'evi threw his opponent with an ippon after 3:40 minutes.
"The win against Suzuki broke down a barrier," Ze'evi said. "Not just for me, but also in the way my opponents looked at me, because there was a feeling that Suzuki was unbeatable.
In the semifinal, Ze'evi came up against Keith Morgan, and dismissed the Canadian with a second waza-ari, after 4:48 minutes. In the final, he downed the European champion Gasymov with an ippon after 2:07 minutes.
"Beating Suzuki really got my confidence back, and the win against Gasymov showed that on the right day, I'm worth a medal in any tournament," said Ze'evi, who will try to reclaim the European title in Belgrade in April, and will then compete at the World Championship in Brazil in September.
Avisar Scheinman came in 7th in the under-81 kilo category, while Alon Sasson went out in the first round in the under-90 kilo class.
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