'Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated'
Arik Zeevi for once competed in an international tournament without any high expectations, yet came away with a bronze medal yesterday at the judo European Championships in Vienna.
This was Zeevi's eighth European medal and fourth bronze in the under-100kg category. His last gold was in 2004.
Zeevi started yesterday by beating Stanislav Cernega, who was thrown to the mat and injured. In his next battle, Zeevi beat Latvian Jevgenijs Borodavko on points before scoring an ippon against Georgian Levan Zhorzholiani in the quarterfinal to win Pool B.
An old rival awaited Zeevi in Elco van der Geest, the Belgian winner of Pool A, who had lost to Zeevi seven times while representing The Netherlands. However, van der Geest took revenge, and threw him down with an ippon en route to a gold medal. In the battle for bronze, Zeevi took down Ukrainian Artem Bloshenko with 1:33 remaining in the match.
"It's one of the happiest days of my life," said Zeevi afterward. "I came out battered in some places, it was exhausting, but it was worth it. It was important to show that I can still compete at the highest level, and that I am still here."
Alex Ashkenazi, Zeevi's coach, said the important thing now is to continue collecting points so that the Israeli can be among the top 22 athletes to qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Female judoka Alic Schlesinger lost in the first round on Friday in the under-63kg category to Slovenian Vlora Bedzeti.