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Mohab ElNahas and Étienne Briand went head-to-head in the under-81 kg final at the European Open in Prague, Czech Republic on Sunday. At the end of a hard-fought duel, ElNahas was crowned champion after scoring an ippon.
“It felt amazing to win my first title in this weight division! My result last week in Poland was a bit disappointing, but I knew I could do better and I proved it today (Sunday). This win means a lot to me,” said ElNahas following the tournament. Today’s competition was the second for ElNahas in his new weight class, and he proved to be a formidable opponent on the tatamis of the Czech Republic. Thanks to his efficient game plan, the Montrealer won all six of his bouts, including the gold medal final against his good friend Briand. The two Canadians, who regularly spar during training, both managed to launch attacks during the final bout, but in the end, it was ElNahas’ strategy that clinched it. He exercised patience before taking advantage of an opening in the third minute to throw his opponent to the ground and win. “It’s always a bit strange to compete against a teammate, but I was really determined to win today. I felt strong physically and knew I could beat him. I had the upper hand for most of the match and I followed my game plan to the letter. When I saw an opportunity to get a good hold and throw him, I took it and scored the ippon,” said the 25-year-old, whose ultimate goal is to reach the highest ranks of international judo. “I think it was a great decision for me to move down to the under-81 kg class, and today’s result is a real confidence booster for what’s to come. I know what I’m capable of and my judo is excellent right now. I’m going to keep working toward my goal of reaching the top eight in this weight division,” concluded ElNahas. As for Briand, he won his second silver medal in as many weeks after his victory at the Warsaw Open last weekend. The Québécois once again demonstrated his expertise by winning his first five matches, including two in overtime, before losing to his compatriot. He put in an excellent performance against Spain’s Alfonso Urquiza Solana, who is ranked 34th in the IJF international rankings and who beat him in the gold medal final last Sunday. Seventh place for Keagan Young Keagan Young (-90 kg) also had a good day in Prague and finished seventh in his weight class, despite a minor injury. After receiving a first-round bye, the Ontarian beat Sweden’s Leonidas Hytonen and Serbia’s Darko Brasnjovic back-to-back to reach the quarter-final, where he was defeated by Aram Grigorian of the United Arab Emirates, who went on to win a bronze medal. In the repechage, Young incurred his second loss of the day to Wachid Borchashvili of Austria, who also received a bronze medal a few moments later. “Keagan fought really well and I think that had it not been for his injury, he would have made the top three. He had some difficulty in his last two bouts and couldn’t attack the way he wanted to. He showed real determination today,” said coach Sasha Mehmedovic following the competition. Alexandre Arencibia and Louis Krieber-Gagnon also fought in the under-90 kg group today but were both halted in the second round and didn’t rank. On the women’s side, Alicia Fiandor (-70 kg), Coralie Godbout (-78 kg) and Mina Coulombe (-78 kg) all lost their first bouts of the day. The Canadians will return home on Monday and resume training for various upcoming competitions.