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Watch: Maltese judoka James Zahra places fifth at European Open

James Zahra (right) placed fifth at the European Open in Madrid.

James Zahra, a member of the Judo Elite Squad, recently competed at the European Open in Madrid, which is one of the last Olympic Games qualifying events.

A total of 371 athletes from 34 countries took part in the event which was also the last event for the Olympic Referees to practice before they fly to the Olympic Games later next month. 

With the 240 points Zahra collected at the World Championships, the Maltese judoka moved up the ranking list. He was the second-seeded athlete in the -60kgs class that was contested by 29 athletes.

Zahra had a bye contest in the round of 32 and proceeded to the Last 16.

Here, he was up against the Spanish home favourite Lassa Iglesias Javier.

It took Zahra only 51 seconds to secure an Osaekomi (hold down) and win by Ippon (full points).

The next round was the quarter-final, and here Zahra was up against Weling Bart from the Netherlands.

Zahra was clearly the leader of the contest throughout, throwing Weling a couple of times. However, the referee only awarded a Wazari (half point) to one of the throws.

Eventually, Zahra managed to strangle Weling, pushing him to give up, thus Zahra won this contest also with an Ippon.

In the semi-finals, Zahra was now up against the Austrian Leutgeb Daniel.

Leutgeb threw Zahra for a Wazari and held him in Osaekomi for Ippon. Eventually, Leutgeb got the silver medal.

As Zahra had made it until the semi-final stage, he was entitled to fight in the repechage, and vie directly for bronze.

 Zahra had to settle for a fifth place to cap a very commendable performance. 

With this result, Zahra moved up one place in the ranking list, and is now ranked 67th. 

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