In Tel Aviv, late April, it was his first Senior European Championship. He did not miss the target. Champion ! And in a wonderful way ! Three Ippons in five fights, including one in 24 seconds against Spain’s Sherazadishvili, the two-times U21 World silver medallist. In the final, Mikhail Igolnikov (-90 kg) beat the reigning World champion, Serbia’s Majdov, for his 18th straight wins. Two months earlier, the 21 years old Russian dominated the Rio Olympic champion, Japan’s Mashu Baker, in the Dusseldorf Grand Slam final by… Ippon (Nidan Kosoto Gari). To win without risk is to triumph without glory !

What does he like in Judo ? « That I can win using my my opponent’s strength ». His references, his models ? « Keiji Suzuki and Vitaliy Makarov », the Olympic heavyweight champion in 2004 and two times World champion, plus the 2001 World champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist (-73 kg), two brilliant judos.

To watch Mikhail Igolnikov is to admire Judo. The Art and Science. And moreover, he keeps winning. Three times U18 European Champion (2011 to 2013) and U18 World Champion (2011), U21 World silver medallist (2014), U21 European champion (2016), the Russian born in Tuapse, a small town located near Sochi, in Caucasus, also won the U23 European championships in 2017. Thanks to this success and his victory in Tel Aviv, he became the only Judoka to win an international title in all age categories, with Azerbaijan’s Hidayet Heydarov in -73 kg.

With Japan’s Mashu Baker, 23 years old, Serbia’s Nemanja Majdov, 21, Georgia’s Beka Gviniashvili, 22, Spain’s Nikoloz Sherazadishvili, 22, and, in Russia, Stanislav Retinskii and Khusen Khalmurzaev, 24, 3rd at the 2017 European championships, competition is scheduled to be tough in the -90 kg division… But Mikhail Igolnikov has already shown that he can tame adversity. It promises us some beautiful years to come !


By Ludovic Mauchien