25 August 2021

OS TOKYO 2020NE: European Champion Nikiforov stopped by World Champion Fonseca

TOKIO/LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE – Thursday, July 29, reigning European champion Toma Nikiforov (-100kg/16 WRL), 4th and last Belgian judoka, competed on the Olympic tatami. His second Olympics after Rio in 2016. However, things did not go as planned for the Belgian athlete. Similar to what happened at the Games in Rio, he was eliminated in the second round.

Toma Nikiforov starts his Olympic tournament well at 4.20 AM Belgian time. His opponent in the first round is Brazilian Rafael Buzacarini, number 17 on the IJF world ranking. Previously, both judokas have met on the tatami only once, most notably at the 2019 Antalya Grand Prix. Toma then lost to the Brazilian in the semi-final. In the first minute both judokas explore each other’s tactics and Buzacarini quickly takes a penalty, but then he almost throws Toma over his shoulder in a prompt move. However, Toma can dodge the attack. Then our compatriot manages to pin Buzacarini to the mat, but he cannot push through. However, it gives him a waza-ari with 37 seconds left on the clock. The Brazilian tries to equalize to draw the bout into the Golden Score, but Toma holds off. In doing so, he gets two penalty points for passivity, nevertheless he pockets his first victory. 

In the second round awaits him the reigning two-time World Champion, the Portuguese Jorge Fonseca (2 WRL). A tough contender. In the past, both judokas have faced each other on the tatami 7 times, with Toma winning 5 head-to-head bouts. However, he lost the last 2 fights (2018 and 2019) to the Portuguese. And on the Olympic tatami, the Portuguese puts on a third victory against Toma. In one swift movement, Fonseca ducks under Toma, pulls him over his shoulder and knocks our compatriot down with a drop seoi-nage. The verdict is inexorable... A sobering ippon after merely 13 seconds. This is where the Olympic tournament for our compatriot ends. The disappointment is devastating and brings him to tears. 

“Toma was ready for this day,” reacts Technical Director Topsport Koen Sleeckx from Tokyo. “His first fight against the Brazilian Buzacarini was very solid. The second match against the reigning World Champion Fonseca shows how hard judo can be. It's very frustrating that it never got to a genuine encounter. That too is of course judo. Extremely unfortunate for Toma who had prepared very well for these Games.”