RUSSIAN JUDO OLD-TIMERS COME ON EUROPE'S TOP

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MOSCOW, November 3 (Mikhail Smirnov, RIA Novosti sports analyst) - St. Petersburg was hosting a 2nd official European masters' judo championship. Russian wrestlers made a breathtaking harvest-38 gold, 39 silver and 50 bronze medals.

The Yubileiny Sports Palace, contest seat, is a few minutes' walk away from the Yawara-Neva club, which President Vladimir Putin, judo enthusiast, frequents whenever he appears in his native city.

The club was organising the event together with the European Judo Union. The National Judo Union and the Russian Judo Federation offered every support. Teamwork was necessary, considering an essential importance of the contest-programme Judo for Masters is part of European programme Judo for All. It seeks to make judo a genuine public sport, open to every athlete and fan.

The three-day championship gathered 17 national teams. Men were contesting for fifty sets of medals, and women for five. Another five sets were offered in Kata demonstration wrestling. Men also had an absolute team championship.

There were close on three hundred contestants, age varying from 30 to 75, with traditional seven weight groups and eight age. The youngest were in the 30-34 bracket, the oldest 70-75.

The host team was the largest-more than a hundred. Romanians came second with fourteen contestants, and Lithuanians third, eleven. The general count was the same.

Accomplished amateurs from business and political communities were wrestling side by side with top-notch professionals. International Master Aslambek Aslakhanov, President Putin's adviser, was star of his 60-64 age group and 90 kg weight group. Though General Aslakhanov was slightly injured in an initial bout, he came out victorious in all that followed, and made European champion. "Each was fighting me as if it were his life's biggest meet-while I felt I had no right to let down my President. I had come to St. Pete to win gold," he said to Novosti.

Judo veterans have their next European contest in London, autumn 2005.

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