The Cannes Film Festival may have been last month, but the red-carpet treatment was given here as this leg was also the first event in the Beach Sport Festival which runs from 1st - 24th July.
With the sun shining, the music playing and that special Beach Wrestling vibe in the air the crowds were treated to some superb technique, drama and skill as our superheroes in shorts wasted no time in getting the sand flying.
An injury in the Romanian Beach Wrestling Championships meant that the princess of power, Stefania PRICEPUTU (ROU), wasn’t able to take part in this leg, with hopes that she is back in time for next week’s penultimate leg in Greece.
Her absence opened the door for Emine CATALOGLU (TUR) to make up ranking points that she lost out on in Spain as she won her opening two fights of the 50KG division taking only 38 seconds to win her opener and just over a minute to win her second bout.
Iryna KHARIV CHYKHRADZE (UKR) had taken gold in the opening two legs of the Series and with her display today it’s easy to see why as she opened her account with a win over compatriot Daria MEDVETSKA (UKR) as the woman’s 60kg division began. It took only 8 seconds to claim victory number 2 as Lilou DUPINAY (FRA) was put to the sword.
Medvestka dusted herself down to bounce back in her second bout, beating American Mia Kaur MACALUSO. Maria Victoria BAEZ DILONE (SPA) and Elena Simona IONESCU (ROU) also managed two wins from their opening two bouts respectively which leaves it all to play for tomorrow as they look to cement places in the finals.
Olena NIKITINSKA (UKR) had to take part in a knockout match before the group stage had even got underway in the women’s 70KG but this only acted as a warm up for her, claiming victory within the opening minute. Buoyed by this, Nikitinska blasted her way past her two group stage opponents to give herself a great chance of progressing out of the groups into the finals matches.
Hatice Ece TEKIN (TUR) has picked up a bronze and a silver in the past two legs and has hopes of making the final step and claiming gold here in France and with two wins from her opening two bouts. She showed good resilience to mount a comeback in her second group bout as she scored the last point in a 2-2 draw with Agoro PAPAVASILEIOU (GRE) but took the win thanks to the tie breaker of last point scores wins.
Winner of the gold medal in Spain, Yuliia KREMEZNA MALYK (UKR), had an indifferent start losing her opener to Nikitinska but showing good spirit to beat another Series gold medallist Adina Ionela IRIMIA (ROU) who won the season opener in Turkey.
Defending World and Series Champion Catalina AXENTE made a return to form here on Cousteau Beach as she claimed two wins from both her bouts, first beating last legs’ +70kg gold medallist Liudmyla PAVLOVETS TYCHYNA (UKR) thanks to a tie breaker and then picking up a win over Aysegul OZBEGE (TUR).
Pavlovets Tychyna also scored a win of her own in her second match defeating Stefania ZACHEILA (GRE). As the tiebreaker suggests there isn’t much between Axente and Pavlovets Tychyna and it will be intriguing to see who claims the gold come the settling of the sand tomorrow afternoon.
Over in the men’s division it was business as usual for one of the glorious Georgians as Levan KELEKHSASHVILI scored two wins in two bouts although he had to dig in hard against Ramiz HASANOV (AZE) but held on to win 2-1 having already defeated home sand hero Quentin STICKER in the opener.
American Mitchell COOK made his Series’ debut in the 70KG division last week and it’s evident that he’s used the experience to sharpen his skills as he picked up his first ever Series match win defeating Clement Dylan Jean-François LAMOTHE (FRA) in an amazing 5 SECONDS in the pre group knockout match and then completely turned his match against Carlos ALVAREZ (ESP) around, coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2, all within the opening minute and 20 seconds.
Between them Omid Abdolali KAMALIAGHDAM (AZE) and Nika KENCHADZE (GEO) have claimed the two golds on offer so far and it would take a brave person to bet against either of them standing atop the podium tomorrow night such is the closeness of their fight for the Series title.
As well has having identical medal records this year (1 gold, 1 bronze), Kamaliaghdam and Kenchadze ended the day with identical win records, both men winning their opening two bouts although Kenchadze did get his second win thanks to the last point scored tie-break. There were also two wins for Romanian Maxim VASILIOGLO as he staked his claim for a place in the finals.
Azerbaijani Ibrahim YUSUBOV has quickly become a favourite in the 90kg division with his tenacious style and never-say-die attitude and both these qualities were on display here, the never-say-die attitude coming as he came from behind to take victory on a tie break over Georgian Dato PIRUZASHVILI and his tenaciousness coming to the fore for his second bout where he defeated Mathis Damien Leon MAYRAND (FRA) in just over a minute.
Another of the glorious Georgians, Current 80KG World Champion David KHUTSISHVILI (GEO) had a day of mixed fortunes as he still adjusts to the step up in weight, losing his opener on a tie break to Mahmut Seyfi OZKAYA (TUR) but then taking his frustrations out on Frenchman Anthony Vincent Yoann LE BORGNE as he dismantled the home sand star with only 6 seconds gone.
The men’s heavyweight division overall looks like it’s shaping up to be a straight shoot-out between Georgia’s Mamuka KORDZAIA and Turkey’s Fatih YASARLI and this leg was no exception. Kordzaia picked up two straight forward wins in his opening two bouts, and Yasarli claimed victory in his only bout of the day. It’s looking like it will take a sandy circle showdown between the pair to see who’s got the golden touch on this stop of the Series.
Yet another sensational day of Beach Wrestling here on the Cote D’Azur as the blockbuster on the beach reaches the halfway point and it’s all still to fight for as we head towards finals day tomorrow. We would love to see you beach side on Cousteau but failing that grab yourself the next best seat on the beach by watching how the drama unfolds and where the medals end up by watching our live stream on beachwrestling.org.