By Jake Smith
An array of 2019 IMMAF European Championship medallists will return to the fray this week, as the 2021 European Championships gets underway in Kazan, Russia. The Championships will mark the first senior IMMAF event to take place since the Oceania Open back in March 2020; prior to the COVID-19 pandemic bringing events to a grinding halt.
54 athletes will represent Russia at the games as the host nation will look to emulate their reign at the 2019 Euros, finishing top of both the junior and senior medals table, amassing an impressive 16 medal haul. As part of their selection process, all male athletes competing for Russia are Russian national bronze medalists, with the silver and gold medalists waiting out until the World Championships.
Junior Light Heavyweight gold medalist, and ‘IMMAF Rising Star’ Omar Aliev was one of the standouts of the junior division in Rome, will be looking to make his mark in the senior ranks, entering 2021 as a perennial contender at heavyweight. He meets Maksim Kotelnikov in an all Russian affair on August 19th.
Junior 2019 flyweight gold medalist, Akhmed Nutsalkhanov will turn over to the senior ranks for the first time. With a busy senior flyweight division, Nutsalkhanov will face Spainiard Gonzalo Cortes Benitez in the opening round.
2019’s second most successful nation, Bahrain, will see many athletes who’ve proven themselves at Junior level, make the switch to the senior ranks. Amongst their top prospects are the likes of 2019 Junior World and European champion Murad Guseinov and IMMAF pound for pound number one, Ramazan Gitinov. Both men enter the busiest division of the tournament, with 18 athletes set to compete at 170lbs.
It will not only be former European medalists working to gain their place on the podium; with some world champions also appearing at the tournament. Poland’s golden girl, Magdalena Czaban could add yet another medal to her ever growing resume, having already claimed 2019 Senior European Gold, 2019 Junior World Gold and Oceania Open Silver.
Two time Oceania Open champion and Undefeated IMMAF World Champion Michelle Montague will be dropping down to Featherweight for the first time as she attempts to further solidify herself as one of the biggest prospects on competing at IMMAF.
Although finishing 10th in the overall medal table in Rome, Finland could well be a dark horse at this year’s championship. Jenni Kivioja has been around the upper echelon of the women’s Lightweight division for a number of years. Having clinched Silver at both the 2018 European and World championships, she is still chasing her first gold medal. Competing in the Mens Lightweight division, Eemil Kurhela enters his fifth consecutive year competing at an IMMAF Championships. Having struggled to find regular form in 2019, Kurhela bounced back to winning ways last year, becoming the 2020 Finnish Championships.
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