Kuka blazes trail for Kosovo at Antalya Grand Prix

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By Robert Hackwill
Kuka blazes trail for Kosovo at Antalya Grand Prix

On the final day of the Judo in Antalya, Zelym Kotsoiev was our man of the day. He was spectacular in the preliminaries and carried that form into the final.

Up against Arman Adamian, in the final, the man he beat for Junior World Gold last year, it was clear there would be thrills in store.

Kotsoiev threw Adamian for a dramatic Waza-ari, giving him the lead before catching him with exactly the same throw moments later, with the 2 scores combining for a match winning Ippon.

"I have met Arman many times before, we always have very interesting contests. On the tatami we are fighters but off the tatami we are friends, and Judo means respect. I’ve had such a great time in Antalya, it’s a beautiful place, it’s a beautiful stadium, with beautiful people, who have been screaming and shouting for us and all their support and cheering has really helped us, so I want to say thank you to Antalya." said Kotsoiev.

Kosovo’s Loriana Kuka was our Woman of the day. A brilliant Osoto gari against top seed Natalie Powell saw her into the Semi-final where an even better Uchi mata put her into the under 78kg Gold medal match.

There she would face off against Ukraine’s Anastasiya Turchyn. There was incredible last second drama as Kuka managed to score from a counter attack right on the buzzer, and in doing so took the Gold medal in her first ever outing on the World Judo tour. At just 21 years of age, could she be the next Judo sensation from her country?

"To be Antalya Grand Prix Champion gives me a lot of confidence of course, because I also saw that I can beat the best of the best, so I’m looking forward to other competitions where I can show what I can do. Judo in Kosovo is the main sport, and we are a small team but a strong team, but we are growing, we also have cadets and juniors. From day to day we are getting stronger and we are always training together, so it’s amazing to be a part of that team,” she said, smiling.

Our move of the day came in the men’s plus 100kg final. Almost 2 minutes into a Golden score, Inal Tasoev scored Ippon against Javad Mahjoub of Iran, putting the Russian on the top step of the podium.

And Turkey ended the competition in the best way possible, with ebile Akbulut thrilling an adoring home crowd by upsetting top seed Larisa Ceric, scoring Waza-ari from Ouchi gari, ending things on an incredible high for the home nation.