Bullen, Larroque Happy to be Back on Top at European Jr C’ships

By William May

BUCHAREST (June 23) – Grace BULLEN (NOR) and Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) went through a tough and disappointing Olympic qualification process this spring. But, both were all smiles Thursday after getting back on top with triumphs at the European Junior Wrestling Championships.

Defending champion Bullen pinned regional rival Emma JOHANSSON (SWE) in the 59kg final while Larroque, last year’s European and world cadet champion, assigned Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) to a silver medal for the second year in a row at 67kg.

“I feel good today because I won,” an exhausted Larroque said after the hard-fought gold medal final. “At the Olympic qualification tournaments, I felt bad because I lost.”

Larroque finished in third place twice in separate qualification events – when only the top two wrestlers earned berths for their countries in the August 5-21 Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Bullen, meanwhile, who notched a pair of falls and technical falls each in defending the title she won last year in Istanbul confessed, “After being knocked down each time in three qualifiers, it feels great to be wrestling in my own age group again – and to be back on top.”

The 19-year-old student, however, was tight-lipped about her future plans, only saying that she will sit down with her coaches soon to discuss plans for Tokyo 2020.

Larroque also indicated she has plans for Tokyo, while adding that she is looking forward to wrestling at the junior world championships in Macon, France, in September because “lots of friends and people I know will come to watch me wrestle."

In the other finals on the first day of women’s events at Polyvalent Hall Bucharest, Oksana LIVACH (UKR) overwhelmed Ksenia STANKEVICH (BLR) singles and double-leg attacks to claim a her first junior age-group title after a pair of bronze medals at last year’s junior European and world meets.

Stankevich, who dominated her two bouts in the morning session, had to settle for her third straight silver medal at the European junior championships.

In the 51kg final, former cadet world bronze medalist Elena BRUGGER (GER) went to an arm bar off a takedown combination midway through the first period and pressed for the fall against Hilary HONORINE (FRA).

Despite the loss, Honorine earned her first medal in a major international competition with wins in the morning session that included a 7-5 decision over 2013 European junior bronze medalist Fatima ZIDAKOVA (BLR).

In the team standings, Russia took the first-day lead with four bronze medal for 32 points followed by Ukraine with Livach’s gold medal and 24 points. Belarus is in third with 23 points, with all four entries contributing led by Stankevich’s silver medal and nine points.

Results of the Medal Finals & Semifinals:

Women’s wrestling

44kg (11 entries)
Gold – Oksana LIVACH (UKR) df. Ksenia STANKEVICH (BLR) by TF, 10-0, 3:43 
Bronze – Beata KOSLA (POL) df. Bianka RECZI (HUN), 4-3
Bronze – Veronika GURSKAYA (RUS) df. Fatme MANDEVA (BUL), 4-3

Semifinal – Kseniya STANKEVICH (BLR) df. Bianka RECZI (HUN) by Fall, 1:36 (8-0)
Semifinal – Oksana LIVACH (UKR) df. Veronika GURSKAYA (RUS) by TF, 12-2, 4:33

51kg (13 entries)
Gold – Elena BRUGGER (GER) df. Hilary HONORINE (FRA) by Fall, 2:06 (6-0)
Bronze – Fatima SIDAKOVA (BLR) df. Mehlikla OZTURK (TUR), 9-7
Bronze – Luiza SULEYMANOVA (RUS) df. Katerina MASHKEVICH (UKR), 12-11

Semifinal – Hilary HONORINE (FRA) df. Mehlikla OZTURK (TUR), 4-3
Semifinal – Elena BRUGGER (GER) df. Luiza SULEYMANOVA (RUS), 7-4

59kg (16 entries)
Gold – Grace BULLEN (NOR) df. Emma JOHANSSON (SWE) by Fall, 2:38 (6-0)
Bronze – Maria MATYUSHENKO (RUS)  df. Derya BAYHAN (TUR) by TF, 12-2, 2:21
Bronze – Arianna CARIERI (ITA) df. Viktoria VILHELM (HUN), 4-3

Semifinal – Emma JOHANSSON (SWE) df. Maria MATYUSHENKO (RUS) by Fall, 4:36 (2-0) 
Semifinal – Grace BULLEN (NOR) df. Arianna CARIERI (ITA) by Fall, 0:50 (2-0)

67kg (12 entries)
Gold – Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) df. Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), 3-0 
Bronze – Khanum VELIEVA (RUS) df. Enrica RINALDI (ITA) by TF, 10-0, 1:28
Bronze – Yulia LISOVSKA (UKR) df. Asli TUGCU (TUR) by TF, 10-0, 2:58

Semifinal – Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) df. Enrica RINALDI (ITA) by Fall, 1:31 (8-0)
Semifinal – Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) df. Asli TUGCU (TUR) by TF, 11-0, 1:33