A few days after he saw his training buddy Sami Chouchi lose the -81kg final, Toma Nikiforov was all smiles in Tel Aviv on Saturday after winning the European Judo Championship -100kg final. “Finally a perfect day”, the Brussels resident said coming off the tatami.
The new European champion started the competition carefully. “I usually make the mistake of using up too much energy in the early fights, so I couldn’t perform at a high level later in the day”, Nikiforov explained. “Today I was able to maintain a consistent level with no problems. I finally had a perfect day. During my third fight against the Russian Bilalov, I used my best judo to beat him quickly. Once I had quickly conceded a waza-ari in the final, I didn’t doubt the outcome for a second. I immediately went on the attack and maybe this meant I was able to surprise and beat Maret. In any case, I’m really happy”.
Toma Nikiforov had a difficult time last year. “But I continued to build on that patiently. At the beginning of the year, in Paris and Düsseldorf, I continued to train with the same patience to achieve my recent success. In this type of tournament, you have to try things and find a way to beat your opponent. Today’s gold medal is the result of hard training, persistence and confidence in oneself. But without the support of my coach, the Federation, my training buddy Sami Chouchi and the army, it would never have been possible”.
The Brussels resident sees a bright future ahead, not just for himself but for Belgian judo as a whole. “There is a great generation of young people coming up, Matthias Casse and others. Keep an eye on us”.
Toma Nikiforov’s plan now is to “celebrate the European title with my friends and family, then prepare for the World Championships (27th August – 2nd September in Bakou, Azerbaijan)”.