James Zahra first Maltese to qualify for a European Open final block

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 qualifier events.

371 athletes from 34 countries competed. This 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 he recently collected at the World Championships, Zahra moved up the ranking list and was the 2nd-seeded athlete in the -60kgs, which was contested by 29 athletes. Zahra had a bye contest in the round of 32. In the round of 16, he was up against the Spanish fighting on home soil, 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 he was up against Weling Bart from the Netherlands. The contest took 1 minute 42 seconds. 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-final, 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, he was entitled to fight in the repechage, fighting directly for bronze. Unfortunately, James had to settle for a 5th place after an amazing day. With this result, James placed up 1 place on the ranking list, now 67th. 

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