By Jake Smith
Ilaria Norcia will be her nation’s only medalist at the 2021 European Open Championships and has the opportunity to take home the gold in what will be her 21st amateur bout.
This won’t be the 27-year-old’s first crack at European gold. Back in 2018, she managed to get to the final, where her dreams were crushed at the hands of Alexandra Kovacs in the final. However, Norcia has never looked as dominant at an IMMAF event as she has this championship, securing a second round TKO and a first round submission on her way to the final.
In her opening bout, she faced Elena Volegova. Norcia showed her experience, happy to work on the outside with her lateral movement causing havoc. When the opportunity presented itself, Norcia landed a tidy judo trip and looked to take the back but fell off and ended up with Volegova in control.
Her timing was once again on point in round two, when she failed in an attempted judo trip but used her extensive experience to seamlessly transition to a single leg, pushing Volegova against the cage and securing the takedown. Norcia got to her feet and refused to let Volegova off the ground, landing several clean kicks before passing the guard, securing knee to belly and landing solid hammer fists before the referee had seen enough and waved the fight off.
In her semi-final clash she took on Alexandra Zaytseva, and once again worked on the back foot, biding her time and looking for an opportunity to force the takedown. Although she got the bout to the mat, she did not manage to advance her position and both fighters were back on their feet. Norcia was prepared when Zaytseva attempted a takedown of her own, immediately locking up a guillotine, but could not secure the angle to get the tap. On her back again, Norcia this time played an open guard, threw her legs up and caught an armbar, cranked it on and got the tap.
The Italian will now face the impressive Pole Paulina Kontna (4-0-0) in the final. Kontna has shown her dominance in both of her bouts so far. Defeating Adel Makhametova with one of the most distant score cards to appear at this year’s tournament, 30-25, 30-25, 30-25. In the semis Kontna managed to grind out another unanimous decision victory against Anastasiya Karmaeva.
Italy have proven their worth across multiple sporting events throughout 2021, with the nation’s football team taking home the Euros and their Olympians winning an impressive medal haul in Tokyo. Norcia will be hoping to add her name to the ever growing list of sporting success in 2021.