Katryna Esposito, Maltese judo’s up-and-coming star, recently participated in the European Junior Championships.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Esposito moved in the sleeping quarters next to the National Dojo at the Malta Judo Academy. Together with fellow cadet judoka Kriss Samuel Bartolo, and coach Denis Braidotti, they spent months training together.
The European Championships were the first opportunity for Esposito to put herself to the test. Around 356 athletes from 37 countries travelled to Porec in Croatia to battle for the 14 titles at stake. Esposito was accompanied by coach Braidotti.
Esposito was drawn against the Austrian Springer, who had just beat the Moldovian Scutari in the first round and is ranked 34th on the Junior World Ranking List.
Considering she was drawn against a potential medal winner, Esposito gave a great performance.
During the contest, she escaped all Springer’s attacks, and counter attacked some of them. She also made some very good attacks and worked in ne-waza (ground work) trying for kansetsu-waza (arm-locks).
Towards the end of the contest, Springer caught Katryna in osaekomi, and even if the hold looked strong and effective, Esposito escaped just four seconds before the gong for Ippon (full points) went off, allowing the Austrian to only score a wazari (1 point).
Thirty seconds from the end of the contest, Esposito made another good attack, but unfortunately lost her grip, and could not conclude.
Just 10 seconds from the end, Springer threw Katryna, scoring a wazari, and thus winning the contest, and eliminating Esposito, as this was still the second round.
In her quarter final match, Springer lost to the European Cadet Champion and Bronze Medallist at the Youth Olympic Games, Kosovan Muminoviq, and proceeded to the repechage (contests for the bronze medal).
She then won her repechage final but lost her bronze medal fight against three-time European medallist from Portugal, placing fifth.
Coach Braidotti said: “I am very happy with the effort Katryna is putting in during training,” coach Braidotti said.
“It is still work in progress that will surely lead to the raising of her level. I am sorry for today because Katryna could have played at least one final for the bronze, but I am equally happy with her attitude.
“I thank the Maltese Judo Federation and all the Maltese sports bodies that have allowed us to live this experience, as well as all the team-mates for their support. The road to medals in these competitions is long but we are on the right one.”