The Malta Judo Senior squad, composed of Katryna Esposito (48kgs), James Zahra (60kgs) and Isaac Bezzina (100kgs) accompanied by the newly appointed coach, Aurelian Fleisz, travelled to Tunis to compete at the Tunis African Open, a Continental Open which is also an International Judo Federation (IJF) ranking event.
On Day One, the results were not those expected with Zahra and Esposito losing their contests. As Esposito was drawn in a more favorable position, she eventually placed seventh.
Day Two was a different story.
Though the day started as if Bezzina’s fate was going to be the same as that of his team-mates, however, he managed to turn the odds in his favour.
In one of his contests, after the full match time, the contest still had no score and went into golden score time. Though Bezzina’s opponent, Kouraychi Amir, was fighting on home soil, Bezzina did not give up, and at long last, catapulted his opponent with a beautiful Ura-Nage (rear throw), earning his place in the bronze medal match.
The bronze match took over 15 minutes, and neither Bezzina, nor his opponent, Algerian Lamri Rehda, managed to score any points. They were both given penalties, and the match should have ended with Lamri receiving his third penalty. But that was not the case, and Lamri managed to throw Bezzina for Ippon.
Bezzina narrowly missed on a first bronze medal at a ranking event but being his first IJF World Ranking List points, pushed him closer to qualify for the World Championships later on this year.
This was the first ever final block match at an IJF ranking event for a Maltese judoka.
Coach Fleisz said: “A bronze medal would have been welcome for Maltese judo. I am confident in future results, this is the goal, to be on the podium and the best would be to be on the highest step.
“At the moment we are outlining a team, who are convinced, that in the future they will go for medals.”
Prior to this event, the team had travelled for an intense two-week camp in Tel Aviv and Wingate Institute in Israel.
The national team’s next commitment will be in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of this month.