He is not yet at the peak in his new category. But he has not changed his habits and leaves the Tel Aviv European Championships with a new medal around his neck, his seventh in all, his first in +100 kg. Dutchman Henk Grol, a two-time Olympic medalist in -100 kg (2008, 2012), is starting a new heavyweight career at 33 years old.
By Ludovic Mauchien in Tel Aviv
Winner of Romania’s Simionescu and Belarus’ Vakhaviak, Henk Grol fought again his best opponent in the quarter-finals, Czech Krpalek, the 2014 World champion and the 2016 Olympic champion, three years after their last fight in the -100 kg division.
This time, the Czech champion won after a rough confrontation head-to-head, like two bulls. Krpalek launched O Soto Gari and finally won after 6 minutes. In the repechage, Henk Grol defeated Poland’s Sarnacki and the defending champion, Georgia’s Tushishvili by disqualification.
What taste does have this bronze medal in the O100 kg ?
« I am happy of course. I wanted to win but I had a good fight with Krpalek and, this time, I lost. Next time, we will see. I did my first real tournament of the year one month ago. I got injured before the Worlds (last August). So I decided to go the heavyweight division. Still, I fought in Morocco for the World Open Championships with one leg because I have still had a MCL problem.
How do you feel now ?
Now, I am fit. I just wanted to fight the big guys, make tournaments, get used to stress and the physical power that have the big guys. Sometimes, I did Judo, sometimes tactics. If I put these two together in a good way, I have a good chance to achieve a very nice champ’ before ending my career.
Is it different to fight against Krpalek in the heavyweight division ?
No, it was the same. Now, I felt physically stronger. I thought he would be very strong but the first 3-4 minutes, I felt very good. I almost threw him. He was very closed to Shido because he was escaping all the time. He was really smart. I have to stand up when he made that. Krpalek is a champion. He is a fighter. He is probably the guy with the best physical condition in heavyweight. So, if you go to Golden Score with him, you go to fight.
You also beat Tushishvili for the bronze medal…
I had illusion to throw him but he stayed up. If you survive the first two minutes, you have a real good chance to beat him. I am fit enough to do it for 3-4-5 minutes. I really liked to fight him because it was a good tournament for me. I felt fit. I beat him before the Worlds so that’s a good feeling.