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Hometown hero Zakiyev raises the roof

Zakiyev
Ilham Zakiyev (white) of Azerbaijan celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's visually impaired final. Getty Images
Germany take five Judo medals after day one of competition

An Azerbaijani national hero was the star of the show on a noisy Friday night at the Heydar Aliyev Arena, as the Judo programme reached its halfway stage.

Germany's judokas may have had the most to celebrate, but their achievements were upstaged by an emotional win for Ilham Zakiyev in the men's visually impaired +90kg final.

"All of Azerbaijan was waiting for me," said Ilham Zakiyev after taking gold. "I promised the president I would win, and I did it."

Zakiyev lost his sight when he was shot on military patrol. A sniper's bullet passed from one side of his head to the other and he was in a coma for five days, waking to discover that he had been blinded. He had been a judoka before the incident, and went on to become Paralympic champion in 2004 and 2008. He also won two world titles, and this was his sixth European triumph.

For Friday's best photos from the Judo competition, click here

He had a big weight and height advantage over his Ukrainian opponent, Oleksandr Pominov, and after a slow, inactive start, for which he was penalised, Zakiyev threw Pominov and pinned him to win just after the two-minute mark.

German judokas finished the night with one gold, one silver and three bronze medals - a great boost for their Olympic qualification hopes.

In the women's visually impaired -57kg, the crowd gave her a great reception but Azerbaijan's world champion, Sabina Abdullayeva, lost by ippon to Ukraine's Inna Cherniak. Ukraine also won one of the bronzes, through Nataliya Nikolaychyk. The other went to Ramona Brussig of Germany.

Clarisse Agbegnenou of France was among the favourites in the -63kg class before competition began, having won 12 straight tournaments in 2013 and 2014. She had to settle for a bronze, however, after losing her semi-final to Martyna Trajdos of Germany, who went on to defeat Slovenia's Tina Trstenjak, her first defeat in eight successive competitions.

Georgia's Avtandili Tchrikishvili, the world no.1, despatched Russia's Ivan Nifontov despite trailing in the opening half of the -81kg final.


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