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Maltese judokas Esposito, Bezzina win historical medals at Tunis Continental Open

Isaac Bezzina (right) poses with his bronze medal.

The Malta Judo squad made up of Isaac Bezzina (-100kgs), Kris Samuel Bartolo (-81kgs), James Zahra (-60kgs), and Katryna Esposito (-48kgs), travelled to Tunis, to take part in the Continental Open.

The Maltese contingent could not have hoped for a better start to the competition after Esposito won the bronze medal in the -48kgs category on Day One.

The category was contested by 12 athletes from seven countries.

Esposito first eliminated the Arab Judo Championships silver medallist Kaddour Houaria from Algeria.

The contest was a long one, which went into the golden score, when finally Esposito managed to secure a wazari (1 point) to close the match.

In the next round, Esposito was up against the African Championships bronze medallist, Kanyamuneza Signoline, of Burundi.

Signoline secured a wazari during the contest, and eventually progressed to the semi-finals.

Having progressed to the quarter-finals, Esposito, could compete for the bronze medal through the repechage contests.

Her first bout was against Tsyrlin Anat, from USA, and Esposito secured victory in just under three minutes with an Ippon.

Esposito advanced to the bronze medal match against Aymard Virgina, from Gabon.

Esposito scored two wazari in two minutes, concluding the match with wazari-awasete-ippon, thus winning her first bronze medal in world ranking competitions, and jumping up 36 places in the world ranking list. 

Zahra was drawn against the first seed in the -60kg category – Fraj Dhouibi, of Tunisia, and unfortunately was eliminated in the first round, losing by two wazari. Dhouibi went on to win the category.

The second day started with the debut of Bartolo at Continental Open competitions.

Unfortunately, he failed to make it past the first round when he was beaten by New Zealand’s Maarten De Ridder.

Bezzina’s category was contested by 13 athletes from 10 countries.

Katryna Esposito (right) poses with her medal.

Last year, Bezzina came close to winning his first medal at a Continental Open in Tunis, when he lost the bronze medal had to settle for fifth place. But this year was going to be different.

Bezzina’s first contest was bye, and he started his first contest in the quarter-final against the Tunisian Haddad Khalil.

This bout was a very close encounter, taking the full four minutes, and ending with a wazari for Bezzina.

The semi-final was against the previously Russian athlete, now competing for Bahrain, Bashaev Zeilmkhan.

This was a hotly contested bout that finally ended with a win for Bashaev.

Having lost the semi-final, Bezzina’s next contest was the bronze medal contest, against Algerian Khaled Azizou. Adamant he was coming home with a medal, Bezzina closed the contest with an Ippon in just 16 seconds, making it his shortest-ever win at the IJF Ranking Tournaments.

With this win, Bezzina moved up three places on the World Ranking List, making his participation at the World Championships in Doha in May more secure.

Only the top 100 athletes in each category can compete at the World Championships. 

This result was another historical result by the Maltese Judo Team, lead by Sensei Aurelian Fleisz.

In a statement, the Malta Judo Federation thanked the Ministry of Sport, the Maltese Olympic Committee, and the National Development and Social Fund.

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